The decline in the number of births in Estonia is related to a decrease in the number of women of reproductive age, a delay of the birth of the first child and the recent pandemic, during which the virus had a particularly negative impact on male fertility.
In 2022, Estonia recorded 11,571 births, the lowest number in the country this century. There were 40.2 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-49 years) last year, a decrease from 2021, when the number was 46.6.
Kärt Allvee, head of the pregnancy information system at the National Institute for Health Development (TAI), said that one of the causes of the decline is an overall reduction in the number of women of reproductive age.
"Women who are now coming of childbearing age were born in 1997 and 1998, and there were fewer births in this period compared to earlier years," Allvee explained.
Allvee also said that delaying the birth of the first child has contributed to the drop in the birth rate.
"Women typically have their first child in their late 20s or early 30s," she explained. "The longer a woman waits to have her first child, the less likely she is to have a second or third child, as it has an effect on her fertility in the long run."
Allvee said that the decline is not related to mortality rates. Due to quality medical care, the number of stillbirths is decreasing and even extremely premature infants are being saved, she said.
There are a number of reasons for delaying having a first child, according to East Tallinn Central Hospital gynecologist Kai Haldre, and Estonia follows a trend similar to other developed countries in terms of the increased age of first-time mothers.
Haldre explained that many young people she sees take parental responsibility extremely seriously. Before deciding to become parents, they want to have a stable job and a place to live on their own.
"I primarily work in the infertility unit; I see that sometimes even the beginning of infertility treatment is delayed until steady employment or housing is secured," she added.
Haldre also said that the pandemic could have also contributed to the decline in the birth rate. "During the pandemic, the temporary negative effect of the virus on fertility, particularly in men, could have contributed directly to the decline in pregnancies," she said.
Alis Tammur, a lead analyst of the population and social statistics department of Statistics Estonia, said that the decline in births was anticipated given the population's age distribution.
The number of births has always decreased during periods of crisis, Tammur said. The instability and health concerns of the last two or three years have had an impact on the number of births, which is now reflected in the statistics.
Tammur predicted that the effects of security concerns and economic instability on fertility rates would not change for several years and that the birth rate will continue to fall.
Editor: Kristina Kersa