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Lockdown may trigger ‘baby zoom,’ lawmaker warns

By: DJ Yap - Inquirer.net | April 08,2020 - 07:21 AM

MANILA, Philippines — While jokes abound on social media about a new generation of “coronials” or “baby zoomers” being conceived during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, a reproductive health (RH) advocate is taking seriously the prospect of a baby boom nine months from now.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Monday said the government should begin distributing condoms and other contraceptives to couples who have no plans to procreate during the Luzon lockdown.

“In the midst of lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, spouses and partners need to avail themselves of contraceptives and other effective methods of family planning to prevent unplanned, unwanted and high-risk pregnancies,” Lagman said in a statement.

Lagman said the 2012 reproductive health law, which he authored, was especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic “as intimacies between couples who are locked down together break the barriers of social distancing.”

He urged the government to “continue discharging its mandate of extending free reproductive health supplies and services to acceptors from the marginalized sectors.”

“Drugstores and pharmacies must have adequate stocks of contraceptives and other RH supplies for those who could afford to buy reproductive health products,” Lagman said.

‘Essential medicine’

Under the reproductive health law, contraceptives certified by the Food and Drug Administration are considered “essential medicines” under the Philippine National Drug Formulary System.

But will community lockdowns result in a baby boom?

Decline, rebound

Based on scientific literature, the answer is probably not.

A March 11 article titled “Will the Coronavirus Spike Births?” and published by the Institute for Family Studies predicted that instead of a spike in births, there might be a decline instead—at least in the short term.

“COVID is very likely to reduce births in the near term and perhaps by a quite considerable amount,” wrote researcher Lyman Stone.

“But after the epidemic has passed, fertility in countries other than China is likely to rebound, especially if death tolls have been significant or if governments take action to replace lost wages, like expanding paid sick leave or extending unemployment insurance benefits,” the researcher said.

The relationship between high-mortality events and future fertility patterns is well-established in the academic literature, Stone said, adding that earlier studies had shown that high-mortality events such as famines, earthquakes, heatwaves and disease “all have very predictable effects on reducing births nine months later.”

But another study by the University of Texas and Johns Hopkins University researchers in 2007 found that low-severity storm advisories causing power outages “are associated with a positive and significant fertility effect.”

On the other hand, high-severity advisories “have a significant negative fertility effect,” according to the study titled “The Fertility Effect of Catastrophe: US Hurricane Births.”

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