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From hospitals to AAFES, many organizations around Europe are getting ready for the return of thousands of troops from Iraq in the coming months.

But some organizations figure that later this year, the business will be booming ... as in a baby boom.

Birth rates typically increase after troops return from long deployments, said Dr. (Maj.) Jeffrey Hermann, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the U.S. Army Hospital in Würzburg, Germany.

For example, Hermann said, the hospital averaged about 50 births a month last fall, after having as few as 20 births a month during other times. The reason for the increase? The 67th Combat Support Hospital returned from Kosovo late in 2002, Hermann said.

So, with 30,000 1st Armored Division troops scheduled to come home in February, it’s only a matter of time before more babies are born, he said.

“It always happens. People haven’t been having babies,” Hermann said, “and they come back and obviously want to get back to a normal life.”

The hospital can get a glimpse of a possible baby boom by the number of women enrolled in the obstetrics orientation, which is often the first step a woman takes after discovering that she’s pregnant, he said.

“Basically we know when the [obstetric] appointments increase, our birth rates will go up,” Hermann said.

And while it is difficult to predict when or how many women will get pregnant in upcoming months, programs such as Women, Infants and Children have months to prepare.

WIC Europe, which provides nutritional support for expectant mothers in their third trimester and for children 5 and under, has been monitoring areas affected by deployments.

Despite the number of families that moved back to the States during a spouse’s deployment, usage of WIC has been consistent, said Col. Gail Williamson, chief of health care operations for Tricare Europe.

Williamson added that WIC may see more expectant mothers and new babies in coming months as a result of the Army’s rest and recuperation program.

“I don’t think [the numbers] will be off the scale,” said LaMont Olsen, WIC Europe liaison. “[But] normally when we see the return of a deployment, we see an increase in births.”

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is also getting ready for the next baby boom, increasing its orders for maternity and infant clothing, said Jeanne McDonald, AAFES spokeswoman.

The exchange introduced New Recruit, a new clothing line for babies and expectant mothers, in December.

Since last year, infant and toddler clothing orders have been increased by 4 percent for the spring/summer seasons and fall/winter clothing orders have been increased by 5 percent. Maternity clothing orders have also been increased.

“We indeed are expecting an increase in babies,” McDonald said.

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