Recession changes women’s birth plans

Many women put off having a baby in a recession, but equally many run the risk of pregnancy through a reduction in birth control – caused by a fear of unemployment and being worse off generally.

In a survey by sexual and reproductive health organisation the Guttmacher Institute, two thirds of women say they cannot afford to have a baby during the recession. The survey also reveals that many take more risks over contraception by reducing their use of the pill or visits to a gynaecologist or birth control specialist.

One of the key reasons during a recession is the fear of unemployment, and the fear of how an employer would view them taking time off work for healthcare appointments. Another key reason is the need to reduce spending on contraception, where this is not provided free of charge.

Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute found that, for many, economic hardship means having to skimp on their contraceptive use, for example, by stretching their monthly supply of pills or shifting to a less expensive method, or not using birth control at all, in order to save money.

Nearly one in four women have put off a gynecologic or birth control visit in the past year to save money, and the same proportion report having a harder time paying for birth control than they did in the past.

The report “A Real-Time Look at the Impact of the Recession on Women’s Family Planning and Pregnancy Decisions” (PDF download) found that more than one in four women surveyed or their partners have lost jobs or health insurance in the past year, and that 52% say they are financially worse off than they were a year ago. Not surprisingly, more than half of the women surveyed worry more now about their ability to take care of their children. Among those who say they are financially worse off, three-quarters voice this concern.

“The recession has put many women – including middle-class women who are having trouble making ends meet – in an untenable situation. They want to avoid unintended pregnancy more than ever, but at the same time are having difficulty affording the out-of-pocket costs of prescription contraception,” said Dr. Sharon Camp, Guttmacher president and CEO. “Unfortunately, while delaying a prescription refill or skipping pills may save women money in the short term, it increases their risk of an unintended pregnancy and results in greater costs related to abortion and unplanned birth later on.”

Conducted in July and August, the survey covered a nationally representative sample of nearly 1,000 low- and middle-income sexually active women to determine how the current economy has affected them and their families, their views of contraceptive use, their ability to access contraceptives, and their decisions on whether or when to have a child. The women were aged 18-39 and had annual household incomes of less than $75,000.

Key findings:

  • 44% of women say the recession makes them want to delay getting pregnant.
  • 53% of women say they are worse off because of the recession.
  • 56% of those worse off say they worry about time off work in a recession, which they would need for doctor appointments.
  • 23% of all women (and 34% of all those worse off) have a harder time paying for birth control.
  • 64% of all women agreed with the statement, “I can’t afford to have a baby right now.”

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