Lockdown didn’t lead to baby boom – in fact it seems to have put people off

Fertility rates actually saw ‘relatively steep decreases’, new figures show (Picture: Getty Images)

When lockdown started 15 months ago, everyone thought they’d called it. With everyone told to stay at home with er, not much else to do, a baby boom was surely incoming.

But actually, it turns out our predictions were wrong.

The figures for births across England and Wales in December 2020 and January 2021 are now in – so the time babies conceived at the start of the first lockdown would have been born.

But the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says fertility rates over this time showed ‘relatively steep decreases’.

Compared to the equivalent months one year earlier, live births were down by 8.1% and 10.2% respectively.

But there was a year-on-year increase in the fertility rate of 1.7% for March 2021 – which is around nine months after restrictions started to ease in summer 2020.

Overall, provisional figures show a total of 615,557 live births took place last year, which is down 4% on 2019.

It is also down 16% from the recent peak of 730,883 births in 2012.

The birth rate last year is thought to be down 4% on 2019 (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

The ONS also predicts the fertility rate this year could end up being the lowest ever recorded.

Based on data for the first three months of the year, the rate for 2021 is estimated to be 1.53 children per woman – down from 1.92 children in 2011.

The total fertility rate is the average number of live children a group of women would bear if they experienced age-specific fertility rates throughout their childbearing life.

There were also 2,429 stillbirths in England and Wales in 2020, which is the equivalent of 3.9 per 1,000 births.

This is down slightly from 2,596 stillbirths and a rate of 4 in 2019.

The stillbirth rate for January 2021 was 4.7, which is the highest for any calendar month since March 2018.

January this year coincided with the height of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic but the ONS noted this slightly higher figure is still relatively low.

The statistic is ‘within the plausible range that we might expect to see from random variation’, it added.

There were 226 stillbirths in January 2021 compared with 207 last January.

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