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Pandemic Babies: Who Became Pregnant and Who Stopped Trying

Pandemic Babies: Who Became Pregnant and Who Stopped Trying
Written by Publishing Team

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About a month into the pandemic, when the lockdowns started to set in, I asked if we could expect more divorces or more babies after the COVID-19 outbreak. I predicted that since women wait longer to start families and have fewer children, the pandemic seems unlikely to increase the birth rate.

Now, a study of a diverse group of New York mothers provides insight into what really happened and a partial answer to my question. The NYU Grossman School of Medicine surveyed 1,179 women who were considering getting pregnant again. The average age of the mothers was 32 and each had a child under 3.5 years old. The aim of the study, conducted during the four-month period between April and August 2020, when New York was the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, was to determine whether their pregnancy intentions had changed since the start of the pandemic. The questionnaire was available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

How pregnancy intentions have changed

Almost half of women have stopped actively trying to get pregnant, and more than a third who were planning to get pregnant in the next six to 12 months have given up on the idea. The women cited increased stress and financial insecurity as reasons for their decision. Online schooling and insufficient childcare services have also contributed to delaying or reducing the desired number of children, especially among low-income Black and Hispanic women.

Of those who have stopped trying to get pregnant, less than half did not expect to try once the pandemic was over. The study authors predicted that the abandonment of pregnancy plans due to the pandemic will likely contribute to declining birth rates.

In late 2020, the Brookings Institute came to an almost identical conclusion predicting 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in 2021. Taking economic stability and job security into consideration, the Guttmacher Institute updated its June 2020 survey and got essentially the same result as the New York City Survey: about a third of women, or 34%, said they wanted to get pregnant later or have fewer children because of the pandemic.

Studies conducted in other countries around the same time have come to similar conclusions. In Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the UK, COVID-19 has caused people to revise, reduce or step back from their fertility plans. In Germany and France, fertility plans have changed moderately, with many people still planning or postponing their decision to have a child.

In Italy, a country with an increased number of COVID-19 cases at the start of the pandemic, a study examined the desire for parenthood among men and women of childbearing age. Among couples who had planned to have a child before the pandemic, 37% abandoned the idea due to concerns about the economy and the possible effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy.

Similarly, research in Shanghai found that three in 10 couples of childbearing age who initially indicated they intended to become pregnant changed their minds after the COVID-19 outbreak.

Not everyone changed their mind

In particular, “older” women maintained their pregnancy intentions more frequently. This manifested itself in Italian and New York studies.

Researchers leading the New York City study found that high-income, highly educated, non-Hispanic white people were more likely to consider becoming pregnant. “This finding parallels other evidence suggesting that people with financial security have continued to actively seek pregnancy despite the pandemic, most evidently in the area of ​​assisted reproduction,” the study authors reported.

For women concerned about their biological clock, waiting could mean not being able to get pregnant using their own eggs. In the United States, the closure of a nationwide fertility clinic has only compounded the problems.

A petition to reopen clinics sent to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine stressed, “Fertility treatment is both necessary and urgent.” The petition suggested establishing more reasonable limits for fertility treatment during the pandemic, similar to the guidelines proposed by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

The pandemic-related decline in pregnancy intentions in developed countries resembles what was seen during the Great Recession of 2008. Unlike the Great Recession, when job losses affected men more than women, Pandemic-related job losses were greater for women and likely helped alter pregnancy plans. . Birth rates have plummeted in wealthy developed countries around the world, and the pandemic will undoubtedly accelerate the decline.

Have your plans to have a baby been altered by the pandemic?

Copyright @2022 by Susan Newman

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