Windsor

Sarnia maternity ward busy with nearly 100% jump in births

A Sarnia, Ont., maternity ward has had a busy year, with the number of babies born increasing by nearly 100 per cent, according to Bluewater Health communications manager Julia Oosterman.

'We've been noticing since April a slow and steady increase in the number of babies'

'So the babies who need a bit of extra care and can't stay with mom, they actually get these little octopals as we call them, and the babies will wrap their little fingers around the tentacles,' says Julia Oosterman, chief of communications with Bluewater Health in Sarnia. (Submitted by Bluewater Health)

A Sarnia, Ont., maternity ward has had a busy year, with the number of babies born increasing by nearly 100 per cent, according to a Bluewater Health spokesperson.

"We've been noticing since April, a slow and steady increase in the number of babies and moms, you know, coming into the maternity unit," said communications manager Julia Oosterman.

"We've gone from 60 births a month to 90 births a month and it's continuing to grow, and we're almost at 100 per cent more than where we were."

So why is the facility seeing such an influx of babies?

'They have been exceptional rising to the challenge,' says Oosterman of the maternity ward team. (Submitted by Bluewater Health)

"Sometimes people when they're working, and they're having commute times and they're stressed … sometimes it's harder for fertility. Some couples have experienced fertility issues, and some people found it more relaxing to be at home," she said.

"Obviously the fact that people were cohabitating a lot more. We weren't doing a heck of a lot. If you remember where we were last January, it was cold. It was, you know, kind of drizzly. There weren't a lot of things that you could do with where we were in the pandemic.… So people decided to keep us busy in October."

Sarnia isn't the only city reporting a higher number of births. In Hamilton in July, hospitals reported the biggest baby boom in recent memory, even though across Canada, early numbers showed the pandemic hasn't led to a widespread birth boom. Statistics Canada released data in March that showed the Canadian population only grew 0.4 per cent in 2020, the lowest increase since the First World War. 

'Incredibly exhausting time'

Oosterman said while everyone likes to think of maternity wards as joyful places, they aren't always like that.

"We do have a particularly phenomenal team in our maternity unit. They have been exceptional rising to the challenge. But you know, when everybody has a bad day and I think having a bad day in the maternity unit is especially hard, right?

Melissa Doan is the interim manager of the maternal infant child program. (Submitted by Bluewater Health)

"It's a pretty magical place. You walk in and there's this feeling of serenity and joyfulness and happiness, although not every day is like that."

It is also a very specialized unit, so filling positions isn't as easy as plucking someone from the surgical or emergency departments and putting them in the maternity ward.

Julie Oosterman, Chief of Communications and Public Affairs with Bluewater Health, speaks with CBC Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about a rise in births. 6:54

"We have a very dedicated and very specifically skilled staff," Oosterman said, adding they have started training people so they can fill in in multiple departments."

The pandemic has also created challenges, she said, not just for the Sarnia maternity ward, but across the province and country.

Health-care staff across the province and country have been stretched thin by the pandemic. (Submitted by Bluewater Health)

Health-care staff have been stretched thin, she said.

"We need to have the staff, and this is on the back of — candidly — an incredibly exhausting time for anyone in health care."

Community steps up

Just before the pandemic hit Canada, the team at the hospital posted there was a need for small hats and gloves for the babies, and they received "hundreds, if not thousands, of baby hats."

One woman also started crocheting what have become known as octopals.

"So the babies who need a bit of extra care and can't stay with mom, they actually get these little octopals as we call them, and the babies will wrap their little fingers around the tentacles," said Oosterman.

"For them it's very similar to like, you know, wrapping around the umbilical cord. So it's it's really precious."

More from CBC Windsor:

With files from Afternoon Drive

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