September 24, 2009 — Forty-four percent of working-class women want to have fewer children or delay pregnancy because of the economic recession, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, the Washington Post's "Daily Dose" reports. A nationally representative sample of 947 women ages 18 to 34 at risk of getting pregnant and living in households with incomes less than $75,000 was surveyed in July and August. Of women who reported a desire to reduce or delay childbearing because of the economic recession, 31% said they want to get pregnant later, 28% want fewer children than previously planned and 7% no longer want any additional children (Stein, "Daily Dose," Washington Post, 9/23).
Laura Lindberg, a senior research associate at Guttmacher, said, "The recession has impacted much more than people's wallets," adding, "Women, especially those that are facing financial difficulties, want to avoid unintended pregnancy more than ever, and many of them are having difficulties affording their contraception to do this" (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 9/23).
Fifty-two percent of respondents said they are financially worse off now than in 2008, and nearly three in four said they worry more about money. Fifty-seven percent of women with children reported worrying more about taking care of their children, and 64% agreed with the statement, "With the economy the way it is, I can't afford to have a baby right now."
The study also found that 29% of women agreed with the statement, "With the economy the way it is, I am more careful than I used to be about using contraception every time I have sex" ("Daily Dose," Washington Post, 9/23). According to HealthDay/U.S. News, some women are switching from daily, oral contraception to longer lasting methods, such as intrauterine devices and injectable contraceptives. Forty-six percent of the women who said they did not want more children also said they are "thinking more about sterilization," the study found (HealthDay/ U.S. News & World Report, 9/23).
At the same time, financial strains are making it more difficult for some women to use effective contraception consistently, the "Daily Dose" reports. The study found that nearly one in four women reported having to delay gynecological or birth control visits in the past year to save money. Twenty-three percent of the women said that they are having more difficulty paying for birth control than in the past, and 8% said they sometimes do not use any birth control as a way to save money. In addition, 18% of women using the birth control pills reported inconsistent use as a way to save money.
Sharon Camp, president and CEO of Guttmacher, said the economic downturn is "putting many women and their partners between a rock and a hard place," adding, "They want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy more than ever, but for many of them the ability to afford the birth control they need is getting harder than ever." Camp said, "These are women who might not have health insurance or may have lost their health insurance, and so might be most stressed" ("Daily Dose," Washington Post, 9/23).
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the study "confirms what we are hearing at Planned Parenthood health centers across the country." Richards added that 17.5 million women currently are in need of publicly funded family planning services.
Men appear to have similar concerns about childbearing during the recession, according HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report. In early 2009, doctors reported an increase in the number of vasectomies performed since the start of the economic downturn. Doctors said the rise could come from a decreased desire to have children because of financial concerns, as well as fears of losing a job and health insurance.
According to Lindberg, the attitude and behavioral changes reported in the study could continue long after the recession is officially over. "National economic indicators may take a long time to translate into families' homes and bedrooms," she said (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 9/23).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership