Emergency situation restrictions did not lead to spike in pregnancies

Pregnant person. Photo is illustrative.
Pregnant person. Photo is illustrative.

Since the start of the emergency situation triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, there have been jokes predicting a baby boom this upcoming winter. However, Health Insurance Fund data shows there has been no spike in the number of pregnancies — if anything, there has been a drop instead.

The Health Insurance Fund added up all pregnancy-related bills from the first half of 2020, and current figures indicate an 18 percent drop on year. However, this data may not be complete.

Health Insurance Fund analyst Inge Ringmets told ERR said: "One possibility, especially when it comes to bills from the last few months in particular, is that not all bills have reached the Health Insurance Fund yet, and recent months' figures are lower on year accordingly."

There has been a nearly 18 percent drop in the number of confirmed pregnancies, down 1,300 on year.

The number of first pregnancies has fallen as well. "When some 1,500 women per month went to the doctor for their first pregnancy between February and May of last year, this year these figures have totaled between 1,100-1,300," Ringmets said.

She said no single cause can explain the drop, noting that some years just see lower numbers of pregnancies, and the cause for this may not be external at all.

"Statistics Estonia's population forecast also says, for example, that there will be fewer zero-year-olds, i.e. births, in 2020 than in 2019," Ringmets said. "And this will evidently be reflected in the number of pregnancies, that these [figures] are a bit smaller this year."

Vivian Arusaar, head midwife at East-Tallinn Central Hospital's (ITK) Women's Clinic, said there are very clear reasons for reductions in the number of pregnancies during crises.

"It has been firmly proven that in such crisis situations, a person's body goes into crisis mode, stress, as well," Arusaar explained. "It is also known that stress isn't a factor conducive to getting pregnant; instead, the body goes into defensive mode."

Having children is tied to having a certain future ahead of you, she said: "This was also evidently tied to the fact that economic activity was at a standstill and people actually lost faith in the future. If your business is not earning, then you are in a fairly uncertain situation, and an economically precarious foundation certainly isn't conducive to planning children."

The head midwife also acknowledged that Estonia is also currently in a period where there are not as many women of childbearing age. Currently, the average age for a woman to be pregnant for the first time in Estonia is 27.

"Birth rates are actually tied to the population curve," she said. "There is a certain time and period during which the proportion of childbearing-aged women in the population is higher. Currently, we are back in a slump."

At the same time, it cannot be claimed that people were not involved in activities promoting pregnancy during the emergency situation. Data from kondoom.ee, a dedicated online condom store, shows condom sales during the emergency situation increased by 40 percent on year.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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