Sept. 15 (UPI) — Nearly half of New York City women who were planning to have children before the COVID-19 pandemic decided to wait during the first few months of the outbreak, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.
The survey of nearly 1,200 mothers in the city also found that one-third of women who had been thinking about becoming pregnant before the pandemic no longer were considering it, the data showed.
New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States in March and April of last year.
“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,” study co-author Linda Kahn said in a press release.
“This is yet another example of the potential long-lasting consequences of the pandemic beyond the more obvious health and economic effects,” said Kahn, an assistant professor of pediatrics and population health at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Recent research has estimated that the birth rate in the United States fell by about 7% in 2020, in some extent due to pandemic-related concerns.
Meanwhile, official statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that the national birth rate already had been declining in the years before the pandemic.
For this study, Kahn and her colleagues surveyed 1,179 mothers of at least one child age 3 years or younger who had plans to have more children.
The women, who all lived in New York City, were interviewed between mid-April and the end of August of last year, during the height of the COVID-19 there.
The mothers surveyed were asked to recall their pregnancy plans before the pandemic, as well as whether they were still going forward with those plans.
Just over 49% of participating women who had been actively trying to become pregnant had ceased trying following the start of the outbreak, the data showed.
In addition, 37% of respondents who had been planning to become pregnant no longer were planning to do so, while 4.5% who neither had been planning nor trying again were considering pregnancy.
Among respondents who had ceased trying to become pregnant, 43% said they would resume their attempts after the pandemic.
Those with higher stress levels and greater financial insecurity were especially likely to postpone or end their plans for an another child, researchers said.
This highlights the importance of financial health in parents’ decisions around pregnancy and suggests that additional financial support for families may be needed to address the nation’s ongoing fertility decline, they said.
The researchers plan to repeat the survey with the same group of mothers and explore the potential impact of vaccination, an option not available at the time of the study.
“These results emphasize the toll the coronavirus has taken not only on individual parents, but perhaps on fertility rates overall,” study co-author Melanie Jacobson, a research scientist at NYU Langone, said in a press release.