We’re officially nine months into the pandemic. Couples have been quarantined together all day every day this whole time. It takes nine months to birth a baby. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? As soon as the first lockdown hit came the jokes that there would be a huge baby boom. So given that we’ve been in quarantine for as long as a gestation period, you’d think that everyone is about to start popping out kids any minute now. Right? Actually, maybe not. Allow us to explain the many reasons why there’s probably not going to be a mid-pandemic baby boom anytime soon.
People Are Having Less Sex
I lived with my ex for most of the pandemic, and my single friends and friends in LDRs were jealous that we were having sex all the time—except we, uhh, definitely weren’t. Like, at all. So this idea that ~couples must be banging nonstop since they’re locked at home together 24/7~ is a very fair and popular assumption, but the truth is that’s just not the case.
And I’m not just using my own experience as empirical evidence here—science backs me up. “Although we might imagine that more time with our partners might result in more sex, we’ve seen the opposite in our 2020 Relationship Health Report, with people reporting a 15% drop in sex since before the pandemic,” explains Briony Leo, psychologist and head of coaching at relationship coaching and self-care app Relish.
It’s not just couples feeling the effects of quarantine, either. Singles are having less sex, too. “Experts like those interviewed in the journal Nature say that the effects of a crisis on people’s sex lives is very individual, and depends on the nature of the crisis it is and how long it lasts,” explains Julie Graves, MD, MPH, PhD, associate director of clinical services at sexual health company Nurx. “COVID is unique in that for single people, it makes it both risky and logistically difficult to meet sex partners. There’s anxiety that you could get COVID from a partner, plus there are fewer social events where you can connect with potential partners.” I mean, none of this surprises me. The risk of dying or getting others sick definitely isn’t worth getting laid, IMHO.
Libidos Have Been All Over The Place
If you’re just not feeling sexy right now, you’re not alone. Our sex drives are drastically impacted during times of economic recession or global depression (like in a pandemic). “Research tells us that stress does impact our sexual activity,” explains Leo, noting that the more stressed we are, the less sex we want to have. TBH, same.
“Another study found that half their respondents had seen a change in their sexual activity since COVID, with factors such as having children at home, depressive symptoms, and loneliness shown to predict a decrease in sex and a decrease in bonding behaviors like holding hands, cuddling and hugging,” says Leo. She adds that although some people experience spikes in libido during stressful times and use sex as a “stress management tool,” stress generally seems to shut down our sex drives to help us focus on coping and getting through (read: surviving) hard times.
Relationship Satisfaction Is Low, Too
Another win for the single people: turns out everyone quarantining with their partner is probably not living in bliss rn, either. That’s because not only does stress impact libido, but research shows it impacts relationship satisfaction, too. “We’re also having less sex simply because we’re arguing more with our partners or finding them more annoying,” Leo says. Wonderful! But I mean, not surprising considering you’re bound to get irritated by your S.O. at some point if you’re stuck together 24/7 (if you’re abiding by the recommended guidelines and staying TF inside like you should be).
Couples Are Heavily Focused On Pregnancy Prevention
For most couples who are making it through this sh*t show of a year (first off, congrats), their baby making plans have largely been put on hold. “Researchers at the Brookings Institution have forecast that there could be half a million fewer babies born in America next year,” says Dr. Graves. That’s 500,000 fewer babies! Why? Well, there are a few factors at play.
Leo claims that uncertainty is a main factor in couples’ decisions to put off baby making. “Many people are putting off becoming pregnant during COVID, due to understandable concerns about the stability of their employment, accessing hospital care during this time, and even giving birth without loved ones present due to COVID restrictions,” she explains. “A lack of certainty about what will happen in the next year has resulted in many people putting big plans like this on hold.”
Obviously, some couples are becoming pregnant in 2020 (looking @ you, every celebrity), but the majority of couples are being extra cautious about having babies right now. “Nurx saw a 50% increase in requests for birth control prescriptions when the pandemic hit in March, and we’ve experienced sustained growth all year,” says Dr. Graves. People obviously take birth control for other reasons than not wanting to have a child, but she notes that “the big jump [they’ve] seen in birth control demand suggests that couples are still having sex but taking pregnancy prevention seriously.” To drive that point home even harder, she adds that the company has also seen a 40% increase in demand for the morning after pill. People are really saying “no babies this year” loud and clear.
In summary, everyone’s focused on work, health, relationships, politics, social justice, and literally just staying alive—all things that can impact a person’s libido and overall relationship happiness. So having babies is low on the priority list right now.
Okay, But What About A POST-Pandemic Baby Boom?
After this dumpster fire of a pandemic is over, people will (probably) be happier and having more sex. So can we expect to see a post-pandemic baby boom? Sounds like another decent assumption, but probably not. “Experts interviewed in the Atlantic don’t seem to think there will be a baby boom, but that birth rates should return to pre-pandemic levels,” says Dr. Graves.
However (!), Relish’s report might hint toward the opposite. “In our report, we did find that of the couples who had made it through the pandemic without breaking up [so far], 40% were actually happier in their relationship now as compared to pre-COVID. This tells us that, once things settle down, there may be more couples taking that step towards starting a family,” says Leo. She believes that due to the reduced amount of stress, isolated, uncertainty, financial insecurity, and all that other fun stuff, people are probably going to be celebrating by having *a lot* more sex (which could lead to *a lot* more babies).
I mean, let’s look at what happened after WWII. “We can look to history for other phenomena, such as the ‘Baby Boom’ where families who had put off having children during the Second World War started families (with the average age of first time mothers decreasing from 22 to 20 during this time),” Leo adds. “A major part of this was the perception of safety and that this was the right time to start a family, so we may see some parallels with COVID and when the world is ‘safe’ again people will make this decision.”
So, yeah. It’s a hard “maybe” to a potential post-pandemic baby boom and a hard “absolutely not” during quarantine. In other words, we’re basically left with one big looming question mark with everything until this pandemic ends, but I guess it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing a ton of babies being born any time soon. Will we even be alive to see the end of COVID? Who knows! I mean, who TF wants to have a baby
ever during a pandemic when our own lives are in danger anyway?
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