The pandemic has been a big turnoff for women of baby-making age, according to the first study to examine pregnancy plans among New York City mothers.
The reign of COVID-19 has made many moms reconsider — or fully abandon — their aspirations to have more children, NYU Grossman School of Medicine researchers have reported.
“Our findings show that the initial COVID-19 outbreak appears to have made women think twice about expanding their families and, in some cases, reduce the number of children they ultimately intend to have,” lead author and epidemiologist Linda Kahn, Ph.D., said of the study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open.
Kahn pointed out that the lack of enthusiasm for pandemic parenthood is “yet another example of the potential long-lasting consequences of the pandemic — beyond the more obvious health and economic effects.”
NYU researchers surveyed 1,179 NYC moms in mid-April who already had at least one child age 3 or younger during the first wave of COVID-19 and found that a third of women who had been considering having more children pre-pandemic had abandoned such plans.
The findings align with early evidence of a national pandemic era birth-rate decline: 2020 saw approximately 300,000 fewer births in the US than anticipated, the release noted.
Indeed, there is no reason to believe the trend is geographically unique to New York.
“Other regions that are experiencing intense COVID-19 transmission and hospitalization rates” as New York “may observe similar trends,” Kahn told The Post. “Whether reductions in pregnancy intention are temporary or persist — in New York and elsewhere — remains to be seen.”
The reasons why COVID-19 might be discouraging to women considering expanding their families are many.
“The vast majority of our participants responded to the COVID-19 survey when the city was still in lockdown and hospitals and morgues were overflowing, so the thought of voluntarily putting themselves in a situation — pregnancy — that requires a lot of interaction with the medical system was probably pretty scary,” Kahn told The Post.
The fraught time, Kahn added, also included hectic schedules as parents adjusted to working from home as well as new home-schooling routines.
“Also, all of our participants were mothers of infants and toddlers, and since preschools and day cares were mostly shuttered, they were likely extremely stressed and overwhelmed,” Kahn said, “not exactly a mindset conducive to making babies!”
Widespread furloughs and layoffs — and the financial stress they entail — during the pandemic also likely played a large impact in making women not want, or be able to care for, more children.
The current availability of the vaccine, however, may have altered certain women’s minds: Study authors are planning a follow-up survey and study to find out.