The coronavirus pandemic has affected people’s intimate lives in unimaginable ways. Between breakups and new romances during quarantine, one of the most constant ideas among all couples is whether or not to have children.
However, as the United Nations reproductive health agency announced, there will be many people who will have no choice.
A report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) on April 27 explained that, if the lockdown continues, “7 million unplanned pregnancies and 31 million gender-based violence cases can be expected.”
One of the key factors for this is access to contraceptives, overburdened health systems, and limited access to gynecological services, including abortion.
Others consequences can also include genital mutilation, child marriage, and domestic violence during confinement.
“Disruptions to global manufacturing and supply chains may also reduce the availability of contraceptive commodities,” the report explains. “The closure of health facilities, unavailability of medical staff to provide family planning services, and women themselves being hesitant to visit health facilities due to concerns about COVID-19 exposure are additionally anticipated to impact women’s access to, and continued use of, contraception.”
Although UNFPA’s projections are made in models for low- and middle-income countries, this will be another type of epidemic that does not distinguish nationality or socio-economic status.
“Globally, roughly 70% of the health workforce is comprised of women. At the moment, there’s more risk of women being exposed [to the coronavirus] as a frontline worker,” Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, UNFPA’s deputy executive director, told Business Insider.
“These issues aren’t exclusive to the developing world. Inequality is less pronounced in the developed world but it’s still there. It’s a catastrophe,” said Alakbarov. “Women are the first to lose their jobs during these crises, they’re the first to stand up for the family, they take most of the brunt economically. But this report is a catastrophe within a catastrophe.”
In the United States, in particular, the situation has even more layers.
As Vox explained in an extensive report, there are couples that have seen the pandemic as a reminder that “life is short” and that the time to have children is now, just as there are those who have realized that it is not what they want for their life plans.
Nourbese Flint, policy director and manager of reproductive justice programming for Black Women for Wellness, told the media that several clinics around the country report “an increase in requests for birth control prescriptions,” as well as an increase in demand for abortion medications.
“People make long-term decisions when they feel certain about the future, and they put off long-term decisions when they don’t,” added Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who studies families.
This is what the New York Times meant when it questioned a “quarantine baby boom” in its report a month ago.
“Don’t expect a lot of newborns in the next year,” said Times columnist Alan Yuhas, citing information from experts who predict the pandemic’s side effects on the economy will affect the U.S. birthrate like none seen since the Great Recession.
“Many people in childbearing ages were already worried about their futures, and now they may face unemployment as well,” said Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, a sociology professor at the University of California. “That kind of anxiety is not conducive to having a child.”