The media immediately began to speculate that nine months from now, the country will see a boom of “Irene” babies. While some dismissed the idea as bunk, on Tuesday morning the term “early signs of pregnancy” was among the top 20 on Google Trends, a service that shows the most searched terms online. The term got a particular spike in search early this morning.
History.com finds that there is also some real history and science to support the theory.
Nine months after the so-called Great Blackout of 1965, when a large part of Canada and the United States was plunged into complete darkness for some 13 hours, the New York Times published a series of articles suggesting the night’s full moon encouraged an increase in conception.
In 1970, demographer J. Richard Udry sought to debunk the theory, writing: “It is evidently pleasing to many people to fantasize that when people are trapped by some immobilizing event which deprives them of their usual activities, most will turn to copulation.”
But History.com says anecdotal evidence has found the theory to be true. Baby births increased nine months after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, after Hurricane Ike in September 2008, and after “snowmageddon” in 2010.
The final word on the matter seems to come from a 2010 paper published in the Journal of Population Economics, which found that birth rates depend not on the storm itself but on the severity of the advisory associated with it.
“If you’re likely to get hit by something that’s life-threatening, you’re not making babies,” co-author of the study Richard W. Evans write. But in a tropical storm like Irene, “you’ve got nothing better to do [than engage in sexual activity].”