Thursday, April 30, 2009

What does recession mean?

This is an issue I have been meaning to explore for a while- how does this recession affect our reproduction?

Just to give a bit of context: The Great Depression of the 1930's was a unique period in American history with regard to these same issues. Many couples delayed getting married, birth rates were very low (the lowest America has ever seen), and women were earning income, outside of the home, with greater regularity than ever before.

There are four key areas on which I would like to propose some thoughts: abortion, birth and briefly, assisted reproductive technology and breastfeeding.

Abortion: There are reports that abortion rates are up (as are vasectomy rates). This makes sense to me- women (and men) are concerned about the financial responsibility of having a child. However, I think it would be useful to see statistics on the demographics of these women. If women are loosing their jobs, not only do they have less money but, they also lose heath care benefits. Some health care plans do cover abortion but, even more importantly, most health care covers birth control. Without the reduced rate for expensive, monthly pills or other hormonal methods, are less women using birth control or using condoms instead? Also, with the uptick in abortions, is there more wait time for booking an appointment, does this push more women into the need for a (more costly) second trimester abortion? Other practical things to consider: non-profits such as Planned Parenthood have been hard hit which could mean less outreach and safe sex education. And finally, abortion funds such as NYAAF have been feeling the effects of our down-turned economy due to fewer and smaller individual donations. These funds are crucial to providing funding for women who, otherwise, can not afford abortions.

Birth: It appears logical that birth rates should go down (although we probably can't see the effects just yet). I heard today about substantial loss of business with-in the doula community. Clients need to pay less or else are deciding that doulas are non-essential for their birth experience.What does this mean for the recent popularity of the home birth movement? On one hand, it is less expensive to have a baby at home, but, on the other, there are many insurance companies that will not cover home births. Does this mean more women will attempt freebirthing? What about use of midwives in hospitals? Midwives cost less to employ than doctors because of their degrees. And finally, if young women are out of work does this unemployment provide for them a break in their careers during which they might have time to start a family?

With regard to Assisted Reproductive Technology, more people are looking to make extra money though the sale of their sperm and eggs. It seems as thought more women are also considering being surrogate mothers. But will the demand keep up with the supply? If less people opt for ART, will our Cesarean rates dip since this kind of technology usually yields "high risk" multiples and often caters to "high risk" older moms?

Lastly, a note about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is certainly cheaper but, will working mothers go through all of the hassle of pumping at work? Are employees more afraid to ask for their breastfeeding rights for fear that it will jeopardize their job? Are employers cutting maternity leaves as a way of reducing costs? Or maybe some families can't afford to take a full maternity leave?

I have posed lots of questions. What are some of your questions regarding reproduction and recession? Do you have any answers or stories for any of the questions that I asked?

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