COVID-19 has had some unexpected impacts on family planning: UBC expert


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Early pandemic predictions of a baby boom gave way to a baby bust, but one UBC researcher says the impact COVID-19 has had on family planning isn’t necessarily negative.

Dr. Robyn Pitman is a lecturer in the department of sociology and a registered clinical counsellor. Her recent research, done in partnership with First Response, a company that makes at-home pregnancy-test kits, found the calculus of how COVID-19 impacted the decision to try to conceive was complicated.

The worldwide upheaval of a global pandemic has, according to Pitman, pushed many Canadians to reconsider their priorities.

“People have often started rethinking some of their choices. So in the last year, we’ve noticed that when Canadians have been polled, many of them are rethinking their careers, or thinking about switching careers,” she notes.

The 2020 Global Happiness Survey also showed a shift in which factors people rate as their top “sources of happiness,” Pitman points out.

“People were rating, relationships, health and safety as being higher than other sources of happiness, than in previous years. All together, what we’re seeing is the pandemic is making people rethink what’s important.”


For some people with jobs that allow or require them to work from home, the change has allowed them to envision a more family-friendly future.

“A lot of people were enjoying the benefits. People are not commuting as much anymore, people are saving money on food and travel costs, there’s better work-life balance, and more quality time with their family or the people who are closest to them,” Pitman explains, adding surveys have shown about one-third of Canadians want to continue working remotely post-pandemic.

“I think what’s happened last year is people have realized, we have all these existing tools, or technologies that we’ve actually underutilized. So, for example video calling, probably became one of the most popular features for many of us because that’s a way to stay connected.”

Getting creative about how to stay connected is also something Pitman says people who have given birth during the pandemic have pointed to as a positive. Another factor highlighted in the report is that there may be some longer-term advantages for kids who are born outside of a baby boom — like smaller class sizes when they start school.

However, Pitman stresses there is no one-size-fits-all formula.

“When it comes to choosing to start a family or have a baby, it’s a very individualized personal choice. There’s no right time to have a baby, it’s about your time,” she says.

“I think it’s good to look at both sides of how the pandemic has impacted families and couples.”

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