Increase in stress and tension in the past two Covid years has reduced Ahmedabad’s birth rate by a whopping ,and unprecedented, 17%. Compared to 2019, 18,831 fewer babies were born in 2021. Between 2017 and 2019, more than 1 lakh babies were born per year in the city (see box). However, in 2020 and 2021, the average annual births went below 90,000.

Following the outbreak of Covid pandemic across the world, a three-month lockdown was imposed in India in March 2020. The sudden calamity, unheard of in generations, led to a great amount of stress due to shortage of beds and lack of oxygen.

The second wave of Covid in March 2021 swept over the city, burdening the healthcare care infrastructure much beyond its capacity. Patients died in ambulances while waiting for allocation of a Covid bed. Experts said the psychological toll it took on families affected their plan to have babies and led to decrease in births.

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Dr Shardul Solanki, psychiatrist at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, said, during the first Covid wave in 2020, several couples had approached us to seek advice on whether or not they could plan a baby during the pandemic. Most of them postponed their plans amid uncertainty of the pandemic’s duration. They also refrained from it as they didn’t want to expose themselves to hospitals. There was also the fear of babies getting infected with Covid. However, with the onset of vaccination and decrease in the fear of Covid, couples have again started planning babies.

An AMC official on condition of anonymity said, the birth rate in the city has gone down due to the pandemic. Almost all the educated couples put off plans to become parents. This is the main reason for the birth rate to have gone down substantially in two years.

LG Hospital clinical psychologist Jaywant Makwana said, there can be several reasons for the decline in birth rate. The fear of financial instability, mental stress and uncertain future can lead to lack of libido.Lack of intimacy, social problems, death of family members and even strained relationships can cause such problems.

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