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The Economic Recession:

How It's Affecting Sex and Family Planning


Updated May 14, 2014

The Economic Recession:

Economic Recession and Family Planning

Photo © 2009 Dawn Stacey

Just when you though you have heard all there is to hear about our dwindling economy, here’s a doozy I bet you haven’t heard... the reality of how our economic recession is affecting the American bedroom in a 21st century kind of way. Some couples are so scared of conceiving a bank-breaking baby that they're taking extra birth control. In fact, others have actually declared an outright moratorium on getting pregnant, so they, too, are taking extreme measures to make sure that one microscopic sperm doesn’t fertilize that egg!

Historically, tragedy and wartime tends to breed baby booms whereas economic hardship tends to cause lower birth rates, so there is a good chance that the United States will see a decrease in the number of babies being born in the upcoming years. For example, women went from having an average of three children to two in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Even though it is also wartime, it appears that our economy is going to dictate whether or not another baby boom occurs. Though, it is still too early to tell how our economic recession will affect the national birth rate, which is defined as the average number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime. Some demographers are predicting that the birth rate impact from this recession will not be noticed until 2010.

With history as our guide, recessions have often equated to couples having less sex because they were worried about creating another mouth to feed. Let’s face it, kids can be expensive -- based on an annual study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture adjusted for inflation, before the age of 2, a child can already cost at least $7,800 a year for families with an annual income of less than $45,800 (this number jumps to $10,960 for middle-income families). In fact, for middle-income families (Before-tax income: $45,800 to $77,100) with a child born last year, the costs of providing food, shelter, clothing and other necessities will total $204,060 by the 18th birthday (which equates to about $11,336.67 a year).

The interesting twist here is the this economic recession isn’t stopping people from having sex, its actually creating a rise in birth control sales.

According to data-tracking firm the Nielsen Co., dollar sales of products in the "family planning" category, which include condoms and OTC female contraceptives (Today Sponge, vaginal spermicides, and female condoms), were up 10.2% for the first two months of this year. Unit sales were up 1.5%, which indicates that consumers are willing to pay higher prices today to prevent crib expenses tomorrow. In fact, Condom sales have jumped. Nationally, 6.4% more condoms were sold in the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2008.

Analysts link this increase to two factors: Families are opting for cheaper birth control and couples are being extra careful, doubling up on protection. All agree it's a sign that America's libido is alive and well in these trying times.

The current economic recession officially began in back in December 2007. Around the US, many doctors are now reporting a dramatic increase in the number of vasectomies being performed since the economy turned for the worse. Marc Goldstein, MD, surgeon-in-chief of male reproductive medicine and surgery at the Cornell Institute for Reproductive Medicine in New York City, reports that his practice has seen about 48% more vasectomy consultations as compared to the same time the previous year. Stephen Jones, MD, chairman of the department of regional urology at the Cleveland Clinic, also noticed a trend toward more vasectomies, with a 75% increase.

A national survey by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released in May revealed that 14% of the women surveyed between the ages 18-44 said that the economy has had an effect on their plans to increase the size of their family, and this number rises to 17% for married women, who explained that the economy has delayed their interest in starting or expanding a family. It appears that the economic recession is greatly influencing a woman's decision about when to become pregnant and how many children to have. Of married women who were in the process of planning to get pregnant, nearly 1 in 10 of these women (9%) indicated that the economy was a factor in their decision to postpone getting pregnant.

Paige Johnson of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina declares, "It's the season for family planning. Our patients are adamant about not getting pregnant. They are so concerned, they are doubling up on birth control."

Confirmation of this demand for contraception is slowly being seen in drugstore birth control aisles and family planning clinics. Historically, the demand for abortions has also risen during economic recessions, but this may not be the case during our current economy slump. The backdrop has changed since the last recession due to new developments:

Some Planned Parenthood clinics are beginning to see a dramatic increase in requests for the morning after pill. The Durham, North Carolina, clinic has given out over 591 pills this year (a 22% increase) whereas in Chapel Hill, North Carolina -– 1,105 emergency contraception pills were dispensed (representing a 12% increase).

Interestingly, according to Planned Parenthood, for the most part, people are not seeking the morning after pill because of contraception failure or unprotected sex -- most of the seekers are already using some form of birth control. This is leaving Planned Parenthood to surmise that couples are extremely dedicated to not getting pregnant. The urgency is so strong that people are using emergency contraception to back up other birth control methods.

Next page: What does this all mean? The new trend in our economic recession.

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