We don’t need to tell you twice that 2020 has reshaped the world in all kinds of wild, weird ways — especially when it comes to major life milestones like getting married or planning for kids.
Back in April 2020 we released our annual Modern State of Fertility, where we surveyed thousands of people with ovaries to understand how careers, finances, and health influenced their plans for having (or delaying) kids. While we found some interesting trends around why people were delaying kids due to COVID-19, we were only a month into the global pandemic at the time. A lot has changed in the eight months since publishing that report — and in COVID times, months are like dog years. So we decided to re-survey our community and take a deeper look into COVID-19’s nuanced impact on family planning.
Of the nearly 4,000 people we surveyed, 30% have changed their fertility plans due to COVID-19. This metric is pretty consistent with our data from March — back then, we found that 31% had decided to change their fertility plans because of COVID-19.
Of the nearly 1,200 respondents who are changing their plans due to COVID-19 — nearly half (48%) are delaying kids. 1 in 4 decided to accelerate their timelines for having kids, which — surprisingly — is about the same number of people who are now unsure if they want kids at all.
Why are people still delaying kids?
We know that these are extremely personal decisions (we interviewed eight community members about why they were or were not getting pregnant this year) — but there are some major themes that play into why people are changing up their plans.
With stories of fertility procedures going on pause (they’re technically “elective,” though I assure they feel essential), under-resourced and overbooked hospitals, and partners not being allowed into delivery rooms — it’s not a big surprise that COVID-19 is driving people to delay kids.
Our survey found that the top reason for delaying was concern about safely accessing healthcare and prenatal care — followed closely by “it doesn’t seem like a good time to bring kids into the world,” “I need to improve my financial position,” and “I’m worried about contracting COVID-19.”
Why are people rethinking kids entirely?
2020 was nothing if it wasn’t confusing, and this finding really brings that home.
Just over 1 in 4 (26%) of respondents who changed fertility plans became unsure about having kids altogether — and the top cited reason was uncertainty about the future world. Perhaps it’s not surprising when you consider all the stressful news that 2020 delivered: from COVID to racial injustice, unemployment, and record-breaking wildfires and storms. There’s broad concern about the future and what that means for pregnancy and having kids.
People also reported that they’ve still got a lot left that they want to see, do, and accomplish in their lives. After being cooped up all year, we get that. It’s worth noting that voluntary childlessness is up (as is involuntary childless, but that’s a different matter). Millennial and Gen Z women don't always see kids as essential to living a fulfilled life.
Finally, financial and parenting burdens are coming into play as well. 2020 has made things a lot more challenging and unstable — all the parents out there are juggling *much* more than ever before, between at-home schooling, childcare, and work (btw, we see you and salute you).
Still, it’s striking that 26% of these respondents are now unsure about having kids.
Why are people choosing to accelerate their timelines for kids?
1 in 4 people are actually hitting fast-forward on their decisions to have kids — about the same number of people who are rethinking kids altogether. Respondents indicated that the pandemic has amplified their desire to focus on what’s most important in their lives — and that “now’s a good of a time as any” to have kids.
Back in March, headlines hypothesized a baby boom post-quarantine — but now that we’re eight months in, the internet’s buzzing about a baby bust instead. Our data backs that up: significantly more people with ovaries are delaying (and rethinking) kids than they are accelerating their timelines.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has dramatically changed how we’re thinking about fertility and family planning. Still, deciding whether or not to have kids now, soon or at all is a personal choice. If you’re trying to make your own decision about your plans for kids, the Modern Fertility blog has resources (here, here, and here) to bring you expert insight as you consider the options, so you can build the life you want on your own terms.
Modern Fertility conducted a quantitative survey Nov 9-17, 2020 and collected N=3,966 responses, with N=1,152 for those who changed their fertility plans. Respondents were required to be between 20-45 years old and the average respondent’s age was 32. Respondents identified their gender as female (99%) or gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer (1%).