This content was published on July 28, 2021 – 12:26
By Lucila Sigal
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – In Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, a city famous for its passionate tango dance and romance, the pandemic is putting a damper on couples making babies, with birth rates down by a quarter since that COVID-19 hit early last year.
Claudia Becerra and her boyfriend Agustín Cacciola have long dreamed of having a child, but strict quarantines and economic malaise from the impact of the virus have made them push back their plans.
“Uncertainty is the most difficult thing we face,” Cacciola, a 32-year-old lawyer, told Reuters alongside Becerra, an accountant, at their home in the Belgrano neighborhood. He lost his job earlier in the pandemic, which affected their finances.
Becerra, 38, has raised concerns about getting medical appointments during the closures.
“Being a mother had to be postponed a bit because of our work issues, and last year because of an economic issue for both of us and everything that happened,” she said.
Argentina has seen its birth rates drop since 2016, but it accelerated sharply during the pandemic. In the populated city and surrounding province of Buenos Aires, births fell 25% at the start of this year compared to early 2020, according to official data.
“I hear a lot of people say, ‘How can I bring a child into the world? “” Gynecologist and sex therapist Silvina Valente told Reuters by Zoom, adding that chronic stress from economic problems and fear of the pandemic have led to the drop in births.
This trend has been reflected in Latin America and beyond.
Mexico recorded a decline of 15.1% in January-May 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, while Brazil recorded the lowest number of births in the first half of 2021 since the start of data compilation in 2003. In Colombia, the birth rate fell 17.4% in 2020 from the previous year, although it started to rebound in 2021.
“The pandemic has an impact on many decisions in family life and it obviously had an impact on the decision to have children,” said Patricio Zalabardo, director of the registry of persons of the province of Buenos Aires.
Argentina has relaxed some restrictions, administered more than 30 million vaccines to its 45 million people and saw the number of cases decline from recent peaks, raising hopes that couples can return home.
Cacciola recently found a new job and the couple are considering moving to a bigger apartment, which they say makes the conditions easier to decide to start a family.
“Things have started to get back to normal and there are fewer restrictions on social activities and medical appointments,” Becerra said. “So this year we are going to make the decision to have a baby.”
(Reporting by Lucila Sigal; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Nick Zieminski)