The Impact Of COVID-19 On Fertility Rates In Canada

Was there a COVID-19 baby boom, or bust?

When COVID-19 first hit, people often joked that the lockdown measures would prompt a baby boom. Here’s what actually happened:

The impact of COVID-19 on fertility rates according to Statistics Canada (source)

  • Canada’s population growth drops to lowest levels since 1946
  • Canada’s population growth slowed to near zero per cent growth in the 3rd quarter of 2020

According to a study in the US about 30% of nearly 4,000 women expressed that they were changing their fertility/family planning timelines this year. Of the 30% who chose to change their fertility plant, almost half (48%) decided to delay having kids. 26% became unsure about having kids altogether and 25% decided to accelerate their timelines for kids.

Why people are choosing, in large part, to delay, defer or just not have a child or additional children at this time?

  1. Economic uncertainty – Many people lost their jobs and are living off of IE or CERB.
  2. The high cost of child rearing – and the pressures of home-schooling during the pandemic.
  3. Uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 and pregnancy – While transmission of the coronavirus from a woman to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth (which is known as vertical transmission) seems to be uncommon, the disease is still new and we need to be vigilant.
  4. Life on hold – People are having less sex, are dating less and with COVID-19 lockdown restrictions postponing wedding ceremonies means for some postponing having babies.
  5. The perceived risks of accessing medical care during the pandemic.

What are the consequence of delaying parenthood?

There’s a fertility window for both men and women. For many who are delaying parenthood means missing their ‘fertility window’

  • Fertility declines with age
    • 30-year-old women have 20% chance to get pregnant each month
    • 40-year-old women have 5% chance to get pregnant each month
  •  Impacts of age for women– women are born with all the eggs we’ll ever have, and over time they decrease in both quantity and quality.
  • Impacts of age for men – Sperm production (spermatogenesis), does take place indefinitely, but the quality and motility of sperm declines with age

What options are there for those who want to delay having children, but don’t want to miss their fertility window?

  • Egg freezing – You can secure your fertility by preserving your eggs. Given optimal storage condition, once frozen the quality of your egg will not decline as you age.
  • Embryo freezing – If you are uncertain if you want to get pregnant now, you can also start the process retrieve the eggs and create the embryos. When you ready to grow your family the embryo will be transferred back to the uterus to create the pregnancy.


COVID-19 VACCINE & Pregnancy:

Vaccine not approved for use in women trying to conceive, pregnant or breast feeding.

Should I take the vaccine if I am currently pregnant or breastfeeding?

  • As mRNA vaccines are not considered live virus vaccines, they are not hypothesized to be a risk to pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, it is important to note both pregnant and breastfeeding women were excluded from the COVID-19 vaccine trials. Therefore, there is not enough data to suggest or deny efficacy or safety during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
  • According to The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC): “While there have been no red flags or hypothesized mechanisms for potential harm associated with administration of an mRNA vaccine during pregnancy until more data is available, the potential risks of vaccination to a pregnant individual and fetus remain unknown”  (source).
  • While most pregnant women who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 will have mild-to-moderate symptoms, and many can be asymptomatic, some pregnant women are at high mobility risk. Risk factors for severe morbidity from COVID-19 include maternal age over 35 years old, asthma, obesity, pre-existing diabetes, pre-existing hypertension, and heart disease. For individuals at high risk of infection and/or morbidity from COVID-19, the SOGC states that the documented risk of not getting the COVID-19 vaccine outweighs the theorized and undescribed risk of being vaccinated during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, and therefore, vaccination should be offered to them.
  • In any case, pregnant and breastfeeding people should consult their prenatal care provider, who could weigh in their individual risk factors versus the benefits and help them make an informed decision that is right for their unique circumstances.

Should I take the vaccine if I am contemplating pregnancy?

  • According to the SOGC recommendations, individuals planning a pregnancy, can complete the entire COVID-19 vaccination series (where possible) to achieve maximal vaccine efficacy ahead of pregnancy. However, it is not yet known whether an individual should delay pregnancy following receipt of the vaccine. If you are trying to conceive you should discuss your potential risks vs. benefits with your health care provider.