Jun 27, 2020 - Health

Pandemic shrinks planned family sizes

A pregnant woman walks down a street while wearing a surgical mask

A pregnant woman wearing a surgical mask. Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A new report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has led a third of U.S. women surveyed to report that they want to delay childbearing or have fewer children.

Why it matters: Natural disasters and economic recessions often lead to a decline in fertility rates, and COVID-19 has aspects of both. With the pandemic and lockdown policies already putting enormous pressure on working parents, reproduction could take a major hit.

By the numbers: This week the Guttmacher Institute released a survey of over 2,000 cisgender women of childbearing age who were asked about how the pandemic has affected their sexual and reproductive health.

  • 34% of women surveyed said they wanted to delay childbearing or have fewer children because of the affects of the pandemic.
  • Those numbers were higher for Black and Hispanic women, who have been infected by COVID-19 at higher rates than white women and absorbed a bigger economic hit because of the recession.

Be smart: While these changes in fertility preferences rival those seen after the Great Recession of 2008, COVID-19 has additional elements that could make a possible baby bust even more long-lasting.

  • A recent study from the CDC found that pregnant women may be at higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19, and on Thursday the agency added pregnant women to the list of those most at risk from the disease.
  • Lockdowns and fears of infection made it harder for pregnant women to get prenatal care or even have partners and family members with them during delivery.
  • With schools and many day care centers around the U.S. still closed because of coronavirus, working parents face enormous uncertainty about the future of accessible child care.

Go deeper... Deep dive: Kids + coronavirus

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