Biloxi, Miss. Construction is not the only post-Katrina enterprise booming. Some South Mississippi obstetricians are expecting more than double the usual number of births this summer.
Office manager Jill Champagne said Woman's Clinic in Gulfport is expecting an extreme influx of babies due in August. "August and September are usually big months anyway, but this year we have more (babies) than normal due in August and through November," said Champagne.
Dr. Stephen Jones of Biloxi OB/GYN Clinic said he is expecting to deliver 40 babies in July. Last year, in the same month, he delivered 15. He expects high birth rates to continue through the summer and fall.
Jones noted he is seeing new patients who would have been seen at Keesler prior to Hurricane Katrina and that may account for some of the increase.
A nurse from one Hancock County obstetrician's office said their patients will be keeping the hospital full beginning as early as June.
Researcher Catherine L. Cohan of Penn State studied vital records for one year following Hurricane Hugo in 1989 in disaster areas of South Carolina. Cohan and fellow researcher Steve W. Cole of the University of California found an increase in birth rates as well as marriage and divorce rates. Calls to the marriage-license offices in the Biloxi and Gulfport courthouses showed no increase in marriage licenses issued.
Cohan speculated as to why birth rates may be increasing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. "It could range from the purely accidental in terms of not having usual birth control to a more psychological, conscious decision."
Gulfport OB/GYN and Fertility Clinic nurse practitioner Lisa Benfield is not sure if her clinic is experiencing a baby boom, but she can attest to some instances of accidental conception. "I don't know if statistically we have more births nine months post-Katrina. We are always busier in the summer months. A month or two after Katrina we may have seen a few more unplanned pregnancies because they couldn't get their prescriptions filled or because they had other things on their minds other than taking their birth control."
Although many people accept the birth of a child as the gift it is no matter what the circumstances, people may also choose to have a child in defiance of the losses they have suffered, experts say.
"Perhaps people are taking stock of their lives. They have a sense time is precious," said Cohan. "Having a child is a life-affirming act in the face of a lot of destruction."