France is having a ‘baby bust’ nine months after the first lockdown

France confirmed more than 64 million people under one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns last spring, there was widespread speculation that a baby boom would follow.

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Contrary to expectations, the country is experiencing a decline in birth rates, writes Rick Noack

 France confirmed more than 64 million people under one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns last spring, there was widespread speculation that a baby boom would follow.

“I thought to myself: They’re all stuck at home, and they need to occupy themselves. So, they’ll make babies,” recalls Martine Mabiala Moussirou, a midwife coordinator at the main public hospital in Saint-Denis, a city on the outskirts of Paris that has one of France’s highest birth rates.

Nine months on, though, instead of a boom, France is witnessing a sharp decline in births. Economic uncertainty, social stress and in some cases anxieties about the virus itself appear to have prompted families to abandon or postpone plans to have a baby.

The number of babies born at the Saint-Denis hospital plummeted by about 20 per cent between mid-December and mid-January and is expected to remain below 2020 levels for at least the first half of the year. While the coronavirus wards are hives of activity, lights in the maternity ward are dimmed and the corridors empty.

Other maternity wards in France are reporting similar trends, as are cities in Italy. A drop in births is predicted for the United States, as well.

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