MUMBAI: The Covid-19 pandemic has not caused a baby boom, quite the contrary in the city. Mumbai recorded almost 24% fewer births in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019 – the second year for the country’s most populous city to see a significant drop in birth registrations.
The civic body recorded 1,13,792 births in 2021, about 35,106 fewer than in 2019 and 37,395 fewer than in 2018. In 2020, the first significant drop was seen, with registrations dropping nearly from 20% to 1.2 lakh.
Recent data from BMC showed that the downward trend has continued in 2021, with registrations continuing to fall. Before the pandemic, Mumbai recorded an average of 1.5 lakh births over the past five years. Although the city has seen a decline in birth rates in the range of 2-3% in recent years, it hasn’t been quite so drastic.
The findings are not entirely surprising to many demographers, who have attributed the shift to the pandemic, the resulting lockdown and labor migration to their place of origin, and the city’s inability to roll them back after almost two years. Gynecologists believe, however, that the trend is not limited to the migrant workforce, but even to lower, middle and upper class families who may have postponed their plans to start a family given the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic. .
The drop may be mainly due to migration and slow reverse migration, but further study by neighborhood will provide better answers, said Usha Ramprofessor of biostatistics and epidemiology at Indian Institute of Population Science (IIPS). “Fertility is high in the slums and most of the migrants were slum dwellers. Presumably the drop happened as they left town soon after the lockdown,” she said.
It is also important to note that many of those who tried to return later had to return because they could not support themselves due to limited jobs and ongoing health issues. The figures also reflect that only the men may have attempted to return, not their wives and families, she said.
Falling birth registrations have caused Mumbai’s crude birth rate to drop below 10 in the past two years – it was 9.3 in 2020 and around 8.8 in 2021. “Emigration is the main contributor to this trend,” said Dr. Mangala Gomare, chief health officer of BMC. According to Dr Gomare, the figures also put to rest speculation about an increase in deliveries after the lockdown. “There is no baby boom, instead it has collapsed if we are to believe the registrations,” she said.
In 2020, many Mumbai Metropolitan Area who were enrolled to give birth in city hospitals were unable to do so due to the lockdown, and that contributed to a drop in numbers, but in 2021 that was also not a factor, said a civic physician. “Many developed countries, including the United States, Hungary and Italy, have seen declining birth rates,” the doctor added.
Senior Gynecologist Dr Kiran Coelho believes that the uncertainty that has accompanied the pandemic and its impact on the financial situation has undoubtedly contributed to a decline in pregnancies and births. “Many families have put their childbearing plans on hold due to job insecurity and the high cost of living,” she said. Also, during the pandemic, many women were unable to access their own gynecologist and had to run around to give birth.
“There is definitely a decline in births caused by a combination of factors, and that’s remarkable,” she said.
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