FLORENCE, Italy — It turns out a global pandemic and recession isn’t much of an aphrodisiac or incentive to start a family. Many have speculated that couples being stuck at home all day will lead to an influx of new births over the coming year, but a new study has largely disproven that notion.
Researchers from the University of Florence conducted 1,482 online interviews on parenthood desires and beliefs during this pandemic, and over 81% of respondents said they are not looking to conceive while COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across the globe.
Moreover, 268 of the survey’s participants admitted that before COVID-19 emerged on the world stage they had been planning on having a new child. Now, though, 37.3% of that group have shelved that idea for the time being. As far as why so many people have decided to put off starting a family, 58% are worried about the future economy and another 58% expressed concern about possible coronavirus-related pregnancy complications.
The survey, which consisted of 944 Italian women and 538 Italian men, was carried out during the southern European nation’s third week of lockdown. All respondents were between the ages of 18 and 46, and had been in a stable heterosexual relationship for at least one year.
Dr. Elisabetta Micelli, the study’s main author, speculates that mental health is playing a big role in many peoples’ decision to delay having a child.
“The impact of the quarantine on general population’s perception of their stability and peacefulness is alarming. In our study sample, the majority of participants gave significantly higher total scores to their mental wellbeing before the pandemic, while lowest scores were reported in the answers referred to the COVID-19 period,” she says in a statement. “We aimed to evaluate if pandemic-related concerns and worries are affecting the desire for parenthood in couples who were already planning to have a child or if quarantine is encouraging reproductive desire.
“Interestingly, although almost half of the people referred no interruption in their job activity and no variations of salaries, probably due to the ‘smart working’ adapting strategy, over 40% of participants reported a worrying reduction of monthly profits. Remarkably, the fear of imminent and future economic instabilities led those who were searching for a pregnancy to stop their intention in 58% of cases,” she explains.
To be fair, of the 268 people who said they were planning on having a child, 60% are still trying to conceive. The research team theorize that fear of infertility in the future is probably why that group hasn’t allowed COVID-19 to stop their immediate dreams of starting a family.
Additionally, just because most people don’t want to have a child right now, that doesn’t mean they’ve dropped the idea altogether. In fact, 11.5% (140) of respondents said they want to have a baby in the future more than ever before. Most of that group was female, and when asked why they want to have a baby more than before the pandemic, 50% cited “the will for change” and 40% said “the need for positivity.” However, only 4.3% of those 140 participants are actively trying to become pregnant during lockdown.
“Again, fear of consequences on pregnancy in addition to the economic impact on families are probably the reasons why almost the whole group of couples who unexpectedly started to express a desire for parenthood during quarantine did not translate this dream into a concrete attempt,” comments study co-author Dr. Gianmartin Cito.
What about overall sexual activity? Are couples spending more time between the sheets these days? For the most part, it seems sex frequency has gone unchanged; 66.3% of respondents who were not interested in having children before or during this pandemic indicated that their bedroom habits haven’t changed all that much. Similarly, couples who are still attempting to conceive right now reported no drop in sexual activity.
The study is published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology.