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The Economy’s Impact on Women’s Fertility Decisions

By Lisa Campo-Engelstein

A recent report  by the Guttmacher Institute (downloadable pdf is here) found that the recession has significant effects on women’s fertility preferences, contraceptive preferences and use, and access to reproductive services. These effects have been especially significant for lower income women. Nearly half of all women surveyed stated that, due to the economy, they want to delay or reduce childbearing. This effect is not surprisingly given that the average cost of raising a child for eighteen years (not including college) ranges from $143,790 to $289,380, depending on income (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Because of their increased concern to prevent pregnancy, some women are turning to more effective contraceptives and being more careful to use contraception regularly. However, other women are not using contraception as consistently as a way to save money. Additionally, women are delaying reproductive health visits or switching to a cheaper contraceptive to save money.

This economic downturn probably affects cancer survivors and patients as well. Cancer survivors who banked eggs, embryos, or ovarian tissue prior to cancer treatment may delay childbearing because assisted reproductive technology (ART) is so expensive, especially for individuals without insurance who will be paying out of pocket. Cancer patients may choose not to freeze eggs, embryos, or ovarian tissue because of the current cost of storage as well as the future costs of ART and childrearing.

Reference: Guttmacher Institute. September 2009. “A real-time look at the impact of the recession on women’s family planning and pregnancy decisions.” www.guttmacher.org

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