The COVID-19 pandemic, together with the subsequent social distancing measures, could lead to shifts in family and fertility planning. This study aimed to explore the associations between the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in fertility intentions among an international sample of reproductive-aged women.
A multi-country, cross-sectional study based on data from 10 672 women aged 18–49 years who participated in the International Sexual Health And REproductive Health (I-SHARE) study, which organised an international online survey between July 2020 and February 2021. Factors associated with changes in fertility intentions were explored using multinomial probit regression models. Cluster-robust standard errors were used to calculate model parameters.
Of 10 672 included reproductive-aged women, 14.4% reported changing their fertility intentions due to the pandemic, with 10.2% postponement and 4.2% acceleration. Women who had ever been isolated/quarantined were more likely to postpone their fertility intentions (adjusted odds ratio (AOR)=1.41; 95% CI 1.18 to 1.69) compared with those who had not; women who lived with a steady partner were more likely to want children sooner (AOR=1.57; 95% CI 1.10 to 2.23) compared with those who did not; and those who reported a higher frequency of getting angry, feeling frustrated, or worrying about their finances were more likely to postpone their fertility intentions. The main findings were robust in the sensitivity analyses.
Most women who changed fertility intentions because of the pandemic have postponed intentions to expand their families. The pandemic-induced exposures were associated with these postponements.