Pandemic influences decisions on pregnancy

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More women are putting off having children because of job and financial stress driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the finding of an Australian Institute of Family Studies survey showing nearly one in five women under the age of 40 had changed their plans about parenting.

Lead researcher Lixia Qu said this bucked predictions of a lockdown baby boom at the start of the pandemic, outside of reports by a handful of Victorian hospitals.

“The pandemic is likely to achieve the opposite impact,” Dr Qu told AAP.

This was driven largely by increased worry about job and financial security, particularly for women in their 20s hit harder by the economic fallout.

“A lot of them are still establishing their career and some lost their job, and have difficulty to find a job,” Dr Qu told AAP.

“For older women, their window for having children is probably already not great, so they’re not so keen to wait, to delay further.”

The institute surveyed 3730 people, 86 per cent of whom were women, between November and December.

More than 90 per cent of women who said the pandemic had changed their attitude to having children indicated they were postponing their parenting plans.

A much smaller proportion, about five per cent, said they would have fewer children.

Dr Qu was “a bit surprised” as she expected a greater proportion of women to delay having babies or have fewer of them because of the virus.

“That’s mainly because we know from our research that financial security, job security were the most important factors influencing their decision,” she said.

One in 10 women said they and their partner had been trying for a child before the pandemic. Of these, 18 per cent had stopped trying to conceive.

A small proportion of women surveyed were already pregnant and some of them said the pandemic had influenced their timing.

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