What if No Babies Were Born for a Year
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There is a serious crisis. Stores are overflowing with baby diapers. Doctors and nurses are in a panic. Teachers breathe a sigh of relief. What single event could cause all of these seemingly unrelated events to happen simultaneously? The answer is no babies being born for an entire year. We are going to explore the ramifications of such an event and what it would mean for the future. Things would be crazy for a bit, and there would be some societal changes, but a year without any newborns might not be quite as bad as you might think. Before we dive into overstocked baby diapers and infant toys, let’s examine some key statistics to get a better grasp on what a year without babies would mean for the population of the world. For this hypothetical scenario, let's assume that the last baby to be born for an entire year was brought into the world on December 31, 2023, at 11:59 p.m. From January 1st, 2024, 12:00 a.m. to December 31, 2024, 11:59 p.m., there will be no babies born. This means for exactly 365 days; no new human life will arise on planet Earth. Scientists and doctors knew something was wrong long before this moment in time, however. In fact, the problems began approximately 9 months ago. It would be around March of 2023 that obstetrician-gynecologists, or OB/GYNs, would first notice something was wrong.
At this point, there would be a drastic decrease in the number of new patients showing signs of pregnancy. For the first few days, doctors might just think it's a fluke, but as they consult with their colleagues and no one has received a newly pregnant patient, alarm bells would start to go off. Tests would be done, experts would gather to discuss the phenomenon, and the scientific community would come to the shocking conclusion that no new babies would be born in 2024. People would panic and couples planning on starting families across the world will have their hearts broken, but there’s a happy ending to this story; it will just take some time. 9 months after the medical community realized that something was wrong, the world would experience the first day in recent human history when a baby isn’t born. The question then becomes, what effects would this phenomenon have on the world’s population? As of right now, there are approximately 8,045,311,000 on planet Earth. To put this number into perspective, let's go back in time. Between 10,000 BCE and 0 CE the human population grew from around 4 million to approximately 190 million people. By the year 1900, there were around 1.9 billion people on the planet. But this was when things got a little out of control. 74 years later, the world population doubled to 4 billion. In 1987 humanity hit 5 billion, in 1999: 6 billion, 2011: 7 billion, and only 12 years later, in the year 2023, there are over 8 billion people on Earth.
Needless to say, the rapid population growth and the need for energy and resources to support such a large population have put a huge strain on our planet. That being said, we are nowhere near Earth’s carrying capacity. The problem is overconsumption in certain parts of the world where huge quantities of food, resources, and water are being used up. It’s also because of overconsumption that enormous amounts of waste, pollution, and greenhouse gasses are destroying ecosystems and changing the climate. Household final consumption expenditure is a measurement used to represent a country’s consumer spending habits. Households in the United States are projected to consume around $18.5 trillion dollars’ worth of goods and services in 2023. The European Union has the second-highest consumption rate at around 8.7 trillion dollars. Even though these two parts of the world are less populated and growing slower than other regions, they are consuming much more than their fair share of the world's resources. In 2022, 134.22 million babies were born. In 2021 approximately 693,000 babies were born in Oceania, 9.71 million babies were born in Latin America, 4.10 million in North America, 6.88 million in Europe, 45.37 million in Africa, and 67.23 million babies were born in Asia. So, it’s clear that more babies are born in some parts of the world than in others.\
But as stated before, this doesn’t necessarily mean those regions are where overconsumption is happening. On average, 367,726,270 babies are born every day. That is 15,322 births an hour, 255 in a minute, or 4.25 babies every second. That’s a lot of babies, which is why the population has been increasing since the dawn of humanity. If no babies were born for one whole year, the population would obviously decline, as just because there are no births doesn’t mean there won’t be any deaths. 60.95 million people are expected to die in 2024, or around 167,000 people a day. Since there won’t be any new births to offset this number, the world population will decline to around 7,984,361,000 by the beginning of 2025. Once people start popping out babies again, it won’t take long for the human species to reach the 8 billion marks again. Before we discuss what, the world would look like during the year without babies, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that 3 months into 2024, people would start getting pregnant again. This is because 9 months later, it would be 2025, and babies would once again be crying in hospitals as they are brought into the world. It’s hard to predict people’s reactions to a full year without babies. Some might find it nice as there would certainly be fewer crying infants in restaurants and on planes.
Others would be in big trouble as certain industries rely on a constant flow of newborns to keep business going. In this scenario, we are assuming that births stop due to some unknown phenomena, but doctors quickly discover they will resume the following year. Because if women stopped getting pregnant unexpectedly and there was no explanation, there would be mass hysteria. Doctors and scientists would scramble to figure out what was going on as doomsayers declared that the end of times had begun. But let’s go with the premise that the world population can keep its cool during this time, and everyone knows that birth rates will return to normal the following year. What would happen to those people and industries that rely on newborn babies and their futures?
Let’s start with where it all begins, the maternity ward. As mentioned before, the first people to know that anything was wrong with pregnancy rates wouldn’t be the parents but the doctors. Since the normal length of time, it takes a couple to get pregnant can be as long as a year, many parents-to-be might just chalk up their lack of success to biology or bad luck. However, since OB/GYNs see pregnant women almost daily, they would notice the lack of pregnancies much quicker. OB/GYNs, in particular, would still have plenty to do with expecting mothers up until the very last baby was born. Then some changes would need to be made. After that final baby is sent home, maternity wards, neonatal ICUs, and delivery rooms could all be repurposed to create more room in the hospital for other patients. The nurses and doctors that have dedicated their lives to ensuring patients have safe deliveries would need to migrate into different fields. Since doctors and nurses are always in high demand, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Pediatricians would still have babies, infants, and children to conduct checkups on from previous years, but their load might be lightened slightly by the gap year when no babies were born. Some doctors and nurses may find themselves moving into general practices and enjoying it.
They would be helping a whole different demographic of patients, but this may be as rewarding as their previous job. This could actually develop into a major problem in the future when babies start being born again. In 2025 when pregnant mothers pour into delivery rooms, hospitals could find themselves short-staffed in maternity wards. New graduates who would have gone into delivery positions likely sought work in other fields as there would be no maternity jobs at the time they graduated. Also, some of the doctors and nurses who left working in maternity may be happy where they are and not come back. This would lead to a staffing crisis across the world and could cause higher infant mortality rates than in previous years.
Then again, the nurses and doctors who needed to shift their practices may be looking forward to getting back to their original professions, and there might be no problem convincing doctors and nurses to return to maternity wards. Either way, there would be a whole year that entire sections of hospitals across the world would either remain empty or be converted to different specialties while no babies were being born. Then there are schools. If no babies were born in 2024, business would continue as usual in the millions of schools across the world. However, by 2029 some changes would need to be made. 5 years after no babies were born and the missing generation would have been ready to start school, kindergarten classes would be eerily empty. There would undoubtedly be small cohorts of children who started school late or early in life that would be in kindergarten at this time, as well as students who were held back for developmental reasons, so kindergarten classrooms wouldn’t be completely empty.
However, the vast majority of schools would need to re-assign their kindergarten teachers to other grades. It’s unlikely that educators would be laid off as teacher unions would have had 5 years to secure a deal with school districts to keep their members in the classroom. And since no one could have predicted or prevented the no-baby phenomenon, teachers can’t be punished for the low-class sizes. This same missing class scenario would happen for the next 12 years. In 2035 6th grade classes would be empty, 3 years later, there would be very few freshmen in high school. The graduating class of 2041 would only consist of a handful of scholars. Each year that teachers were supposed to teach the missing class, they could be reassigned to other grades or could teach smaller sections of their primary subject. Instead of 35 kids being crammed into a classroom, the extra teachers could be utilized to bring class sizes down. That being said, the teachers could also be given a sabbatical for the year that they were supposed to be teaching the missing cohort.
This could allow teachers to improve their practice and stay up to date on recent educational research. Colleges might suffer between 2041 and 2045 as admissions would be lower than in the past due to a whole year’s worth of students not attending higher ed institutions, but their numbers would eventually bounce back. It would be an odd time for school teachers and institutions, but it would not be that difficult to adapt without having to lay off an entire grade's worth of teachers every year. Baby product companies would definitely have a rough year in 2024 if no infants were born. It wouldn’t cause major corporations like Johnson and Johnson, Pampers, or Gerber to go out of business, but it would have some detrimental effects on their bottom line. Since there would be no indication that 2024 was going to be a vastly different year in terms of product sales until 8 to 9 months prior, companies likely would have already begun manufacturing their products as usual. This means there would be a surplus of diapers, pacifiers, and baby food on the shelves of every store.
This isn’t such a bad thing, as many baby products, such as onesies, have a long shelf life. However, companies that specialize in baby formula may have to destroy some of their unused product as it would not last until the following year when babies were once again being born. It’s likely that smaller companies that specialize in baby commodities would find themselves underwater as demand for their goods and services would be greatly diminished in 2024. This may lead to some companies filing for bankruptcy or being acquired by larger businesses. Then again, governments around the world could offer supplemental funding and bailouts since this would be a short-term problem. Regardless of how companies coped in 2024, 2025 would see business return to normal levels. It’s worth noting that most companies would lay off workers to help them weather the storm. There would still be some cash coming in as infants from 2023 would still need baby products, but sales numbers would be significantly lower than in previous years. Certain goods, such as baby food, could be repurposed as it is high in nutrients.
This source of sustenance could hypothetically be used to supplement the diets of elderly adults until new babies were born. It would be a difficult time for economies around the world, and certain businesses would probably not make it through a year with no babies, but the majority of bigger corporations would be able to cope. After women started becoming pregnant again in March of 2024, it would be clear that things were going to return to normal in 2025. This would result in companies rehiring laid-off employees to ramp up production for the return to normalcy. So, in reality, many businesses would only suffer for the 3-month gap when there was no sign that any new babies would be born between January and March of 2024. What all of this means is that a year without babies might not be as bad as you’d expect. There would definitely be panic until doctors and scientists figured out what was going on, but once a female became pregnant and 9 months later gave birth on January 1, 2025, people would look back on 2024 as just a weird anomaly.
The slight decrease in population would barely make a dent in demographics around the world, but it could alleviate some of the strain we are putting on our planet for a short amount of time. Economies would almost certainly go into decline until it became clear that the time period of no babies being born was just a fluke and things would return to normal the following year. The decline in population from a single year of no babies would be about .75%, so it would be a relatively insignificant dip in the grand scheme of things. Possibly the most important thing to come out of a year with no babies is the advancement of research that would result from trying to understand the phenomena. Doctors and scientists would be working around the clock to figure out what was going on.
This could lead to major advances in fertility research, our understanding of the human body, and medicine. There would likely be unforeseen benefits and discoveries made from the research conducted to understand why no babies were being born. When you really think about it, a year without babies wouldn’t be so bad. There would be some disheartened people who wanted to start a family but couldn’t, layoffs in certain industries, and societal panic, but in the long run, a year without any babies wouldn’t have much of an effect on anything. The population around the world would rebound almost immediately, and all of the jobs and companies affected by no babies being born in 2024 would eventually recover. All in all, this phenomenon would end up being a footnote in history books, and things would return to normal soon after the first baby of 2025 was born.
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