Many US women say they want fewer children because of the coronavirus pandemic

·4 min read
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  • A third of US women say they want to delay pregnancy or have fewer children because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new Guttmacher Institute survey of 2,000 people found. 

  • Minority, low-income, and queer women were especially likely to say their family planning goals had changed. 

  • At the same time, some women are struggling to get contraception, which could foil their new plans to postpone pregnancy. 

  • There are many reasons women may want to or be forced to delay childbearing, but some experts worry it could lead to a "demographic time bomb." 

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

While celebrities and pockets of friends continue to announce pregnancies and births, many American women are taking the opposite tact: Trying not to get pregnant, or pregnant just yet, due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a survey of 2,000 cisgender, sexually-active women conducted in early May, the reproductive rights organization the Guttmacher Institute found 34% of respondents wanted to delay pregnancy or have fewer children because of the pandemic.

Women in marginalized communities were especially likely to report changed plans, with 44% of Black, 48% of Latina, 46% percent of queer, and 37% of low-income women saying they wanted to have fewer kids or start their families later. 

"Importantly, the pandemic is compounding existing social inequities by disproportionately affecting Hispanic and Black women, queer women, and poorer women," the survey authors write

The survey also found that a third of women had trouble accessing women's healthcare services or birth control due to the pandemic. Again, percentages were higher among minority, queer, and low-income communities. 

"These disruptions in needed care could result in continued barriers to obtaining desired contraceptives, increases in pregnancies among women who wanted to avoid them and delayed identification and treatment of cervical cancer and STIs," the authors write. "All of these outcomes carry negative health, social and economic consequences." 

There are many reasons pregnancy and child-rearing is less appealing or possible, but experts worry about the long-term implications  

The desire to delay pregnancy or limit the size of a future family can be attributable to many factors, including lost jobs, closed healthcare clinics, fears about coronavirus exposure at clinics that are or will be open, and the unknowns around how the virus affects pregnant women and their future children. 

Haley Neidich, a therapist in Florida, previously told Insider she and her husband stopped trying to get pregnant in late March partially due to the lack of in-person support she'd have if she did conceive. 

"Pregnancy is hard, especially the first trimester, and I need my support system here with my physically in order to get through it and still be a good mom to my daughter," she said. 

Other women have told Insider they had to halt their plans to attempt pregnancy since they relied on fertility treatments that, for a stretch, weren't available or recommended. That disruption also unfairly limited same-sex couples, who need fertility treatments to conceive. 

Others may expect to age out of their reproductive window by the time they're ready to pursue pregnancy, and some, including those who were pregnant at the time, told Insider they worried about bringing a child into the world during such a turbulent era. 

"I'm feeling less in control, more worried, as new data comes in about infected infants and pregnant women, and more worried about the state of our world and country when the baby is born," Jen Judson, a reporter in the Washington, DC, area, said before her son's birth in late April. 

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pregnant woman mask coronavirus crystal cox

Crystal Cox

Experts say the trend could exacerbate another worrying one: Continuously declining birth rates in the US, which some say may lead to a "demographic time bomb," or when there aren't enough young people to support both the economy and older people who continue to live longer.

Fewer babies were born in the US in 2019 than in any of the 35 years before. 

Still, the coronavirus's effect on birth control and abortion access could outweigh these changes. Only time will tell. 

"The decline due to COVID-19 might be different given the extent and severity of the crisis, and the long-lasting uncertainty that is caused by it," Hans-Peter Kohler, a University of Pennsylvania fertility researcher, told AP

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