The Covid-19 pandemic may trigger a ‘baby boom’ because hundreds of thousands of women have lost access to contraceptives and abortion services since the life-threatening disease first emerged.
Data crunched by Marie Stopes International revealed 1.9million fewer women used their services across the world between January and June compared to last year.
The report predicted that there will be 900,000 unintended pregnancies as a result of the disruption to reproductive health services.
The report by the MSI, one of the largest providers of reproductive health services, mirrors a warning from the World Health Organization earlier this month.
Two-thirds of 103 countries reported reproductive health services were disrupted between May and July, according to the WHO. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has said the world could see as many as 7million unintended pregnancies as a result.
Throughout history, spikes in deaths because of war, disease or famine have been followed by a wave of pregnancies as countries get back to normal.
Almost two million women have lost access to contraceptives and abortion services throughout the coronavirus pandemic (stock picture)
After World War II, the end of hardship worldwide led to celebration among couples who may have been torn apart for years.
But any up-tick in pregnancies during Covid-19 is likely to be down to the disruption to reproductive health services.
COVID-19 WON’T LEAD TO A BABY BOOM, EXPERTS PREDICT
There will not be a Covid-19 baby boom straight after the pandemic because couples will be too concerned about their money, experts predicted last month.
Throughout history, spikes in deaths due to war, disease or famine have been followed by wave of pregnancies as countries get back to normal.
People thought this might happen after the Covid-19 because couples were spending more time together and might have more sex.
But births are likely to decline after the crisis because the impact of lockdowns will be so long-term, Italian researchers said.
Financial strain will probably be the biggest reason couples in wealthy countries are put off parenthood.
Widespread redundancies have been the result of months-long lockdowns, and with less money, rearing a child won’t be so attractive.
School closures would also have led couples to re-assess childcare whether they already have a child or not.
Poorer countries have already seen births decline over recent decades and the coronavirus is likely to continue this downward trajectory, the researchers believe.
A similar spike was seen in West Africa following the Ebola crisis in 2014, which was the largest outbreak of that disease since it was discovered in the seventies.
MSI’s report also predicted there will also be 1.5million unsafe abortions and more than 3,000 maternal deaths.
Discussing the estimates, Dr Clare Wenham, an expert in global health policy at the London School of Economics, said it was ‘predictable’.
She told The Daily Telegraph: ‘We saw it with the Ebola outbreak, we saw it with the Zika outbreak.
‘And so governments could have done something to prevent this situation had they stopped to think about reproductive health issues.’
Strict lockdowns which saw health services prioritise coronavirus care contributed to a reduction in access to reproductive healthcare and shortages of contraception.
In the US several states — Texas, Utah, Idaho and Alabama — classified abortion as a non-essential medical service so they couldn’t be accessed during the coronavirus pandemic.
General fears from the public about getting infected are also believed to have added to the drop in women getting healthcare.
And early on in the pandemic, the United Nations warned of a ‘devastating’ condom shortage after coronavirus lockdowns forced major producers to close factories.
While the British Pregnancy Advisory Service told MailOnline that women were ‘struggling to access contraception’ during the height of the outbreak. Large manufacturers of contraceptives in Asia had to halt production or operate at reduced capacity.
According to MSI, India has been the worst hit of all three dozen nations it operates in — with 1.3million fewer women accessing services provided by the organisation.
One survey, done by Ipsos Mori, found that just under a third of people looking for an abortion in India said their local clinic was closed.
And the country is expected to see an extra one million unsafe abortions, 650,000 unintended pregnancies and 2,600 maternal deaths alone.
Dr Rashmi Ardey, director of clinical services at MSI’s India, said: ‘Women are bearing the brunt of this global calamity.’
She also noted that sexual health is already under prioritised but it has been rapidly decreasing even further because healthcare services are under such huge strain due to coronavirus.
Dr Wenham added: ‘Humanitarian crises often lead to an increase in fertility rates often among displaced migrants or refugees affected by war.’
But she also said that it is too soon to identify an increase in pregnancies because it took a while to spread across the world. In the UK there has so far been a decline in pregnancies.
However, a surge in teen pregnancies has been reported in Kenya. Country director at NGO Plan International, Kate Maina-Vorley, said the situation was a ‘shadow pandemic’.