For the second year in a row, India’s most populous city, Mumbai, has seen a decline in live births.
The uncertainty associated with a global pandemic and its effects on the economic conditions of families are considered the most likely reasons for the decline in the total number of live births in the city. Another reason for the decline is considered to be the mass exodus from space-critical Mumbai.
In 2019, 1,48,898 births were recorded in Mumbai. In 2020 this number came down to 1,20,188. In 2021, it fell further to 1,13,669, which is 23.65 per cent less than the total number of live births recorded in the pre-pandemic period.
However, there is some expectation that there may be a slight increase in the number of live births in 2022. Data available till September shows that 94,117 live births have taken place in Mumbai this year.
The findings are not surprising to many demographers, who have observed similar declines around the world, including in developed countries such as the United States. “When a new disease spreads, people panic, which has an emotional and financial impact. So, although they do not stop having children, they delay it till the situation improves,” said Dr Soumitra Ghosh from the School of Health Systems Studies, TISS.
“The same thing happened during the Covid-19 pandemic, when a large number of people suffered economic losses, including job losses,” he said.
According to experts, such a “baby bust” was observed even after such catastrophic events as the 2008 financial crisis and the 1918 influenza pandemic.
According to the 2011 census, about 40 percent of Mumbai’s population lives in densely populated slums. When the pandemic started, Worli Koliwada in G South ward (Elphinstone), Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, had several slums in G North ward. , among others, turned into hot spots of infection.
Some of these areas are also home to migrant populations. Lakhs of migrants, including pregnant women, left the city in the first national lockdown. After the flattening of the pandemic curve, although many men returned in 2021, they have left their wives back home.
“We have seen a huge drop in deliveries in the slums. We believe that as many migrant mothers did not return, the live birth rate remained low even in 2021,” said Dr Mangala Gomare, acting health officer, BMC.
By January 2021, when Mumbai was in the grip of a second wave of Covid-19, a large number of expectant mothers opted for home deliveries with the help of midwives, especially in slums, visiting hospitals and putting themselves exposed to the virus. to save from. , BMC data shows that there were 353 home deliveries in 2019, which declined to 256 in 2020, but the figure was 420 in 2021.
The BMC data also showed that the number of abortions had dropped to around 28,000 in 2021 as compared to 35,000 abortions recorded in the pre-pandemic period.
“In 2021, the impact of the second wave was very severe. Although the lockdown was restricted with better access to hospitals than in the first wave (in 2020), many couples ignored planned pregnancies for fear of contracting COVID-19. Thus, we saw low births and miscarriages,” said Dr Arun Nayak, a gynecologist at Sion Hospital, which records the highest annual deliveries.