Births down slightly in 2021 at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital

Henry, Rylie top names of Mitchell newborns

A view of Avera Queen of Peace hospital in Mitchell. Republic File Photo

MITCHELL — Avera Queen of Peace Hospital saw a slight dip in childbirths in 2021, but nearly 500 babies still arrived in this world in Mitchell over the course of the past year, according to statistics from the health care provider.

“The number is down slightly from the past several years,” said Angie McCain, director of the Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Women’s Center.

In 2021, Avera Queen of Peace saw 482 births — a small decline from the 485 born in 2020 and the 497 born in 2019. That’s a decline of approximately 3% over the course of three years. And while a number of factors can play into the number of births in any given year, COVID-19 undoubtedly had an impact on the 2021 numbers.

“COVID-19 affected everyone this past year, and parents are no exception,” McCain said in an emailed statement to the Mitchell Republic. “Some potential parents may have been concerned with less income, while others may have been fearful about the unknowns associated with COVID-19.”

The healthcare system has worked to make sure childbirth is as safe as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. McCain said the pandemic moved the Avera OB/GYN Service Line, which includes providers and other caregivers from across the Avera system, to join the Center for Disease Control , the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal and Fetal Medicine in endorsing COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding women.


Births in the United States have dropped generally over the course of the last two years, according National Center for Health Statistics. United States Census Bureau Photo

The slow decline in births reflects a larger trend nationwide, according to the United States Census Bureau. The bureau indicated in March of 2021 that birth numbers had dropped with the arrival of COVID-19, but other factors in the decline included the fact that births in the United States have a seasonal pattern, the number of births in the United States has declined every year since 2008 with the exception of 2014 and that there have been similar patterns in other countries.

There were 285,138 births nationwide in December 2020 — 23,664 (7.66%) fewer than in December 2019. On average, there were 763 fewer births each day in December 2020 than in December 2019, according to the bureau.

But the joy of a new arrival was still a common occurrence in 2021 at Avera Queen of Peace, despite a slight drop in births. McCain said that amidst the worry and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, families welcoming a new member of their clan provided health workers with some much-needed joyous moments in a year filled with challenges.

November alone produced a few surprises in the form of three sets of twins arriving in the world within a span of two weeks at the hospital.

“We had many happy moments in the Women’s Center this year, including when a record was broken in November as we had three sets of twins delivered in 11 days,” McCain said. “The month of November overall was busy, with 52 births in 2021 compared to 36 births in 2020.”


Births in the United States have dropped generally over the course of the last few years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. United States Census Bureau Photo

When it comes to names, Henry topped the list of newborn males at the hospital and Rylie and Rylee being the most popular names for girls. McCain noted that Rylie, with four babies named, and Isla, with three, were the names that stood out most among names for girls, as many names for females were used more than once.

For boys, the list was a little longer. In addition to Henry, other popular names included Ryder, which along with Henry saw four babies given that name, and several others with three instances: Asher, Greyson, Hudson, Liam, Luke, Maverick, Oliver, Owen, Rhett and Theodore.

In addition to endorsing vaccines for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, other steps were taken to ensure safety. In some cases, the COVID-19 protocols even allowed for some improved quality parent-child bonding time.

“While it was a challenging year for all, there were many positive outcomes, too. In an effort to keep everyone safe, COVID-19 required health care providers to tighten visitation guidelines,” McCain said. “As much as new parents love to see family and friends after the birth of their child, restricting visitors allowed for more alone time. This resulted in increased bonding time for the parents with their newborns. Nursing staff noticed an increase in skin to skin bonding, as well as an increase in successful breastfeeding rates.”

Those unexpected benefits, even in a year tainted by pandemic stress and challenges, showed that it is easy to see positives when focusing on the new life that came into the world in 2021 at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital.

“These are all positive outcomes,” McCain said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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