Nearly 1,500 babies born in Mid Sussex in year Covid-19 hit
Nearly 1,500 babies were born in Mid Sussex in the year the coronavirus pandemic shook the world, figures show.
Office for National Statistics data shows there were 1,486 live births in Mid Sussex in 2020– 29 more than the year before.
It meant the fertility rate was 1.73 births per woman, higher than 1.69 in 2019.
This was higher than the rate of 1.58 across England and Wales last year – the lowest since records began in 1938.
The total fertility rate is the average number of children a mother would have while she is of childbearing age, if she experienced the typical fertility rate every year.
According to the ONS, the fertility rate has been decreasing nationally for a number of reasons, including improved access to contraception, women delaying motherhood and having fewer babies.
Although for UK-born mothers the fertility rate decreased to 1.50 children per woman, down from 1.57 in 2019, the rate among non-UK-born women increased slightly from 1.97 to 1.98.
Different figures show that of the babies born in Mid Sussex in 2020, 348 (23.4%) had at least one non-UK parent, with 175 (11.8%) having both parents born outside the UK.
Anxiety for new parents was exacerbated by restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, with many feeling isolated and facing reduced access to professional care.
The #WhatAboutUs campaign, backed by charities including Action for Children, the NSPCC and NCT, is calling on the Government to extend Covid-19 catch-up funding to support the 600,000 babies born across England and Wales in the first year of the pandemic.
Sarah McMullen, director of impact and engagement at parenting charity NCT, said many women who had babies in 2020 did not get the post-natal support they needed due to reduced access to services, and lack of practical help from family and friends.
She said: “Many mums and dads have felt socially isolated due to the pandemic, and concerned about the impact on their baby’s health and development as well as their own wellbeing.
“Services and support were reduced at a time when parents needed them most.
“Many mums reported struggling to cope and that their mental health had suffered.
“The early years of life are a critical time for development.”
The Royal College of Midwives said maternity staff made “enormous efforts” to keep as many services running as possible, but added they were already under pressure before the pandemic.
Restrictions included limitations on visiting and the amount of time partners were allowed with new mums at birth, limited choice on where to give birth and fewer in-person appointments.
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, executive director for professional midwifery, said restrictions were imposed “with a heavy heart”, but that many parents were supportive.
The NHS said the Government gave £95 million of extra funding to maternity services to meet challenges posed by the pandemic.
An NHS spokesperson said: “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, NHS staff worked tirelessly to ensure thousands of babies were born safely over the past year and mums have continued to receive personal, compassionate maternity care in extraordinary circumstances.”