Women are deciding not to have babies because of the pandemic

Economists and fertility experts say hundreds of thousands of American women are making the same decision. A June report from the Brookings Institution estimated that the U.S. would see as many as 500,000 fewer births in 2021, a 13% drop from the 3.8 million babies born in 2019. Telehealth clinic Nurx tells TIME it has seen a 50% jump in requests for birth control since the beginning of the pandemic, and a 40% increase in requests for Plan B. A survey from the Guttmacher Institute found that 34% of sexually active women in the U.S. have decided to either delay getting pregnant or have fewer children because of concerns arising from COVID-19. Lower-income women were much more likely than other women to want to put off having a baby; that’s especially true among Black and Latinx women, who have suffered disproportionate income and job losses this year.

On top of financial worries, the pandemic has plagued would-be mothers with a host of other concerns, including hospital rules that might banish partners from the delivery room and the risk of exposing relatives to illness if they’re needed to provide childcare. And of course, parents are worried about the health of the baby: Los Angeles County recently reported the first newborn cases in the U.S., with 8 of 193 babies testing positive for COVID-19. Katie Hartman, 34, lives in Florida, one of the states hardest hit by the coronavirus, and is considering a home birth if she does decide to get pregnant. “You never know when another spike will come, and it just seems wise to avoid the hospital,” she says.