Can't Afford To Get Pregnant?
Perhaps the population hit hardest by the latest economic crisis is the one yet unborn. Couples in Ventura County in California are having fewer children in 2009 than in any of the five preceding years. This is according to the Ventura County Public Health Department which found that as of December 21, 10,383 children were born in this county representing an 8% drop from the year 2008.
National and state statistics echo these numbers though perhaps the decline is less drastic elsewhere. Experts are struggling to explain the trend, but for many, the connection to Ventura County's 11% unemployment rate is the obvious link. Thousand Oaks obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Jeffrey P. Block puts it in simple terms: "People are afraid of their financial future."
A Simi Valley doctor with an ob-gyn practice noted that it isn't just the birth rate that's gone down, but also the number of fertility treatments. One Thousand Oaks fertility specialist explained that people are trying to avoid the most expensive fertility procedures which can cost up to $15,000. Those who press on with fertility treatment are placing more requests for financial assistance. Meantime, Lilly Meehan, a Ventura childbirth educator said her business is as low as it's ever been. “Everybody’s been very slow this year,” said Meehan, who teaches childbirth classes. “I’ve been in business for 23 years and I’ve never had a year like this one.”
Still, for some in the birth profession, the depressed economy has been a boon. Midwife Sue Turner who heads up the Ventura Birth Center says deliveries have picked up by between 20%-25% and believes this is due to customers who would have chosen to deliver in hospitals in a more stable economy. “It’s one-third of the cost,” explained Turner.
But the diehards insist that a depressed economy has the opposite effect. One reason they assert this is so is due to the extra time people have on hand while they are out of work. Husbands are at home more often, says Francisco Arambula of Thousand Oaks. Francisco is an accountant but had no difficulty finding time to celebrate his daughter's birth on December 18.
USC's Lynne Casper, director of the university's Southern California Population Research Center says that historically, poverty caused the birth rate to fall during the Depression. But most recessions don't last as long as the decade-long Depression. Casper doesn't believe a recession will have much to do with the birth rate at a given time period. The expert is certain that other factors are at play, for instance, couples who are waiting longer to have babies because of career considerations.