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Baby Boom: Record year for DL hospital

We have a bunch of cry-babies in Becker County this year -- literally.

Essentia Health St. Mary's has set a record for the largest number of births in one year for that hospital.

Obstetrician Gynecologist Dr. Jim Christensen says from July of last year to the end of June this year, there were 568 new little bundles of joy delivered at St. Mary's.

According to the Becker County Recorder's Office, that's up from 423 the year before and 429 two years ago.

"I've been here 12 years, and it seems like almost every year we keep going up and up and up," Christensen said.

In fact, Christensen said when he came here in 1999, there were only 300 deliveries at the hospital that year.

He says he doesn't think the baby population is growing significantly in Becker County, but that more people are choosing to deliver at St. Mary's instead of going to Fargo.

And not all of the 568 babies born at St. Mary's are Becker County residents.

"I think there are probably more people moving to the DL area, but I think another reason for this is that we are capturing more of the market," said Christensen, "More people are coming from Park Rapids, Pelican Rapids, Mahnomen ... and I think that is because we have added more services over the years, and our reputation has grown with it."

Since Christensen has been at St. Mary's, the hospital has added the option for epidurals and at least one more OBGYN, bringing that up to three.

He says there is also a couple of family practice doctors and a midwife that deliver babies.

"I think our workload is about right for the staff we have now, but we are getting busier and busier," Christensen said, adding that there isn't a particular event he can put his finger on that would cause this baby boom.

"There is truth to the idea that when there is a large snow storm or something in January, there are a lot of babies born in September or so, but I don't know what would cause a big jump from one year to the next."

Christensen says a baby boom like this sets off a chain of events, as those are additional babies who will then require medical attention for illnesses, vaccines and well-checks as they grow.

The news has caught the attention of school leaders in Detroit Lakes as well.

A baby boom in 2010-11 means a big kindergarten class in 2015-16.

"It's something that makes us realize that we really need to address the space issues we're already dealing with in some of the schools," said Detroit Lakes School Board Chair David Langworthy, "because now we know that in five years, we're going to have to deal with a large kindergarten class on top of it all."

And those kindergartners inevitably become first graders, and so on -- creating a "boom" that will be heard around the area for the next 18 years.