How did Covid 19 affect fertility? The data available across the globe has shown that the pandemic prompted short-term fertility decline in many countries.
In a latest technical brief “How will COVID-19 impact fertility?”, the United Nations Population Fund said that there was a decline in fertility across the globe because of the Covd 19 pandemic. However, the UNFPA asked not to get alarmed over fertility changes. It said that crisis related dips in fertility have been followed by post-crisis rebounds. It also mentioned that global demographic data showed that fertility “momentum” would continue to grow the world population for decades to come.
The analysis said several developing countries showed an increased decline in fertility. The UNFPA said that the pandemic interrupted supply chains and access to family planning services in developing countries that increased the risk of unintended pregnancies and unplanned births.
DEPRESSING FERTILITY IN EUROPE AND THE USA
The analysis points out sharp decline in fertility in the US, 19 European countries and two East Asian countries. It said that the year-on-year number of births in 15 countries of the European Union dropped three per cent in October, five per cent in November and 8.1 per cent in December 2020. In the United States, it declined by 7.7 per cent. In January 2021, births fell by 7.2 per cent in Florida and 10.5 per cent in California. Similarly the number of births declined by 20 per cent in Spain, 10.3 per cent in Russia, and 13.5 per cent in France in January 2021.
The UNFPA points out that couples in the US intentionally put pregnancy plans on hold and had sex less often. It also mentions about the survey in the Republic of Moldova both before and after the pandemic peak in which it was found that couples were 41 per cent less likely to be trying to conceive after the onset of the pandemic.
Apart from this, the analysis also informed that Google searches for pregnancy related terms, such as pregnancy tests, were down.
LONG HISTORY OF FERTILITY DECLINE IN CRISIS
History has always recorded about fertility decline at times of pandemics and adverse atmospheres. It said that the Spanish flu (1918-1920) caused fertility rates to plunge, reaching a low point six to nine months after the Influenza pandemic’s peak morbidity and mortality. The Great depression also led to a similar issue for years. In the US, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) fell from around 2.5 in 1929 to approximately 2.2 births per woman in 1939, more than five years after the crisis . The postponement in births resulted in an extraordinarily small cohort of “children of the Great Depression”. More recently, fertility declined after the economic recession of 2008 in North America and Europe.
CONTRACEPTION AND SRH
The pandemic led to a public health crises that sharply disrupted the availability and use of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services and family planning.
The UNFPA experts in East and Southern Africa reported significant disruption to SRH services during the first peak of the pandemic (in May-July 2020 in comparison to May-July 2019). The analysis found that outpatient visits declined in ten of the 12 East and South African countries, ranging from a five per cent decline in Zambia to 48 per cent in Zimbabwe. Family planning services also fell in six ESA countries, with the drop in visits for injectable contraceptives ranging from ten per cent in Tanzania to 87 per cent in Angola. The analysis points out that Antenatal care (ANC) visits decreased in five.