Comparing reproductive intentions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional study

BMC Health Serv Res. 2023 May 25;23(1):545. doi: 10.1186/s12913-023-09551-z.


BACKGROUND AND AIM: Reproductive behaviors and intentions are affected by several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. This study was conducted with the aim of comparing the intention to reproduce and its causes in Iran during the period prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: This descriptive-comparative study included 425 cisgender women from 6 urban health centers and 10 rural centers in Babol city, Mazandaran province, Iran. Urban and rural health centers were selected using a multi-stage approach with proportional allocation. A questionnaire was used to collect data in relation to individual characteristics and reproductive intentions.

RESULTS: Most participants aged between 20 and 29 years had a diploma level of education, were housewives and lived in the city. The intention to reproduce decreased from 11.4% before the pandemic to 5.4% during the pandemic (p = 0.006). The most common reason for wanting to have children prior to the pandemic was not having children (54.2%). During the pandemic, a desire to reach the ideal number of children was the most common reason to want to have children (59.1%), though no statistically significant difference was observed between the two periods (p = 0.303). The most common reason for not wanting to have children in both periods was having enough children already (45.2% before and 40.9% during the pandemic). The reasons for not wanting to have children had a statistically significant difference between the two periods (p < 0.001). Reproductive intentions had a statistically significant relationship with the variables of age (p < 0.001), the education level of both participants (p < 0.001) and spouses (p = 0.006), occupation (p = 0.004), and socio-economic status (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Despite restrictions and lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on people’s desire to reproduce in this context. Economic problems caused by the sanctions which increased during the COVID-19 crisis may be one of the reasons for a reduction in people’s intentions to become parents. Future research could usefully investigate whether this decrease in the desire to reproduce will lead to significant changes in population level and future birth rates.

PMID:37231470 | DOI:10.1186/s12913-023-09551-z

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