COVID: fewer babies in rich countries and more in poor countries

Changes to global fertility rates could be on the way.

Some countries are likely to experience a spike in births, while others are likely to see fewer births.

Few women want to have a child in a time of uncertainty.

In the rich world many are delaying starting a family or adding to it. But in the poorest places, where women often have less choice, a baby boom may be on its way.

The lockdowns, people looking for “lockdown partners” and reduced access to contraception is resulting in unplanned pregnancies in Uganda, says a resident.

Shops to buy condoms weren’t open. A delivery service doled out free condoms. Unplanned pregnancies occurred anyway.

In contrast, in wealthy Singapore, contraception is easily available. People reluctant to start a family before the pandemic are even more so during a global recession.

Singapore’s government is offering couples one-off grants of about AUD $3000 for having a child in the next two years – on top of pre-existing payments and savings schemes.

It will be a few months before the effect COVID-19 is having on global fertility rates can be measured.

In Japan, the prime minister is calling for health insurance to cover in vitro fertility treatment. The government says there has been an 11 per cent fall in new pregnancies in the three months from May relative to last year.

In poor countries mass displacement is adding to sexual activity. In refugee camps informal work disappeared up during lockdowns. Transactional sex is expected to rise.

In India millions of urban workers lost their jobs and fled to their home villages across the country, in Nepal, Bangladesh and beyond. They were reunited with lovers they usually see just a few times a year.

More sex doesn’t necessarily mean more babies. But COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains for contraception.

Poor people rarely have stores of contraceptives. Data from health facilities in India show between December and March the contraceptive pill distribution fell by 15 percent, condoms by 23 per cent.

The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice think-tank, estimates 50 million more women will not get the contraceptives they need this year, leading to 15 million unintended pregnancies.

The Institute estimates 28,000 mothers and 170,000 newborns will die, and there will be an extra 3.3 million unsafe abortions.

At the same time, rich-world women have greater control over family planning, but pandemic anxiety is likely to cause a sharp decline in birth rates.

The Institute’s survey of American women aged 18 to 34 in families earning less than AUD $106,701 found a third want to get pregnant later or have fewer children because of COVID-19.

A 15 percent drop in America’s monthly births between November and February is predicted by one research group. This is 50 percent larger than the decline following the 2007-09 financial crisis.

A reduction in birth rates seems likely, says a fertility clinic director.

“You’re not going to see a bunch of people being born in December and January because (people) were home and bored and having sex,” he says. “They were home and bored and scared.”


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News category: World.

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