Despite the stress and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, most women with employer-based health insurance are continuing plans to expand their families. Some hope to have even more children or expand their families earlier than they had previously planned. Evernorth recently asked 2,000 women ages 25 to 45 about the Impact of COVID-19 on family planning. We explored whether spending many months under unique and sometimes difficult conditions – such as coping with virtual schooling or working from home or in a transformed workplace – had changed their desire to have more children.
We learned that 60 percent of women say their plans to have children have not changed, while 13 percent would like to have more children than they previously planned. Among women 35 to 45, that number increases to nearly 20 percent.
Up to 14 percent of respondents are accelerating plans to add to their family. Many respondents said the pandemic has helped them recognize the importance of family. Others are eager to increase their family because they have more flexibility and time at home.
The study also suggests that unintended pregnancies may be on the rise. Nearly 40 percent of respondents – including those who don’t plan to have more children - reported increased sexual activity and a 10 percent decrease in birth control use.
Fertility prescriptions, treatments are increasing
We also asked if the respondents were undergoing fertility treatments. Many who were had stopped treatments early in the pandemic, when medical offices were closed for safety reasons, but more than 75 percent had already restarted treatments or plan to restart within one year. More than half of those currently undergoing treatments had begun during the pandemic.
These figures align with claims data from Express Scripts PBM, an Evernorth company, which show a 42% near immediate increase in fertility claims when most fertility treatments were able to resume – reaching pre-pandemic levels within 6 weeks. In addition, we noted a 3 percent increase in fertility prescriptions for the year compared to 2019 – a steady increase in claims despite the pandemic. That suggests the number of people now seeking fertility treatments is higher than it was pre-pandemic.
Helping families achieve their goals
The older women get, the more likely they would need medical intervention to achieve pregnancy. The need for comprehensive fertility benefits will continue to grow, as illustrated by the number of 35- to 45-year-old women who say they wish to increase their families.
A separate study showed that 63 percent of employees say benefits are their deciding factor for a job, just behind salary at 69 percent. Another study also indicated 61 percent of employees feel greater loyalty when they have parental and fertility coverage. According to this research, one in three women would change or encourage their partner to change jobs for better coverage of pregnancy, fertility treatments and adoption.
While these studies indicate that the demand for broader fertility benefits will continue to increase in the years ahead, Evernorth will continue to monitor evolving trends influenced by the pandemic, especially those that may impact families, employers and our health care system.
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