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The Family Planning Fallout: How COVID-19 Has Impacted Birth Rates

While we all know the old joke about blizzards producing more babies due to homebound couples, COVID-19 has actually had the opposite impact on birth rates. And just like all major worldwide events, repercussions will be felt for many, many years, and we’re still discovering what those look like.

A “Baby Bust” in the Making

In late summer last year, reports and trends indicated that we were looking at a “baby bust” of almost half a million children. Since then, more nuanced information has appeared around what this means. While COVID-19 accelerated it, the birth rate in the United States has actually been on the decline since 2008 and the last recession. Looking to history, after the 1918 flu pandemic, births declined 12.5%.

Besides the impact of sustained stress on the sex drives of those stuck together at home during the pandemic, market instability, high levels of unemployment and budget concerns have women delaying pregnancy or making critical decisions about what to do when they become pregnant. At a clinic in Granite City, Illinois, for example, women scheduling abortions were previously half as likely to ultimately proceed with that choice – amid the pandemic, that number jumped to 85%.

The Future of Family Planning

Interestingly enough, the quality of the births that happened increased during the pandemic. Fewer higher risk and premature births were also recorded, which is to be expected with fewer births overall, but the proportionate number doesn’t align with the overall decrease. Some factors impacting the health of infants and mothers include reduced travel and out-of-home activities, preventing other illnesses during pregnancy with a higher focus on hygiene in general, or even less pollution. Women also have concerns about the safety of hospitals and contracting COVID during their delivery, leading to a rise in the interest in home births, doula services, and birthing centers.

Those concerned about population decline are not the only ones nervous about the current environment. Many women who feel as if they have a ticking clock on their childbearing years are frustrated by the fact they are not able to build a relationship or meet a partner to have children with as they navigate dating challenges during a pandemic. With vaccines inoculating the population, there may be a market surge for goods and services related to family planning once the COVID-19 threat has decreased to an acceptable level.

International Birth Rates

An outlier in the birthrate decrease is in Germany, where births have increased slightly as opposed to its surrounding EU counterparts. Sweden and Norway also are faring fairly well. Common trends that contribute to this directly address the primary concern of many – not only being able to physically conceive, but also being able to afford to raise a child. Generous childcare and parental leave policies in Germany respond to this fear head-on, and an affordable healthcare system takes some worry out of delivery and child welfare concerns.

As vaccines roll out and cases fall, concern about contracting an infection in a healthcare setting may no longer be as big of an issue. However, the pandemic’s effect on financials and markets will be long-lasting. Access to affordable childcare, goods and services, and healthcare will go far in combatting reluctance to conceive due to financial fears. There may be a smaller subset of women eager to make up for lost time or interested in fertility treatments or preservation, as well. Want more insights on trends we’re expecting post-pandemic? Just reach out.