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2021: Baby boom or baby bust?

When the UK entered the first lockdown last March, the media was full of predictions of a post-pandemic ‘baby boom’ – but the latest consumer data tells a different story.

As people sought to make their own fun while at home, the nursery industry looked forward to late 2020 and early 2021, when the first wave of lockdown babies could be expected to arrive.

Brands were keeping a close eye on consumer behaviour throughout the pandemic, making the most of the most up-to-date data available. For example, in April 2020, eBay saw searches for ‘pregnancy’ and ‘baby’ rise by 57% and 45% respectively, when compared to the month before.

However, the latest research from PwC suggests that the UK could actualy see a ‘baby bust’ in 2021 with the annual birth rate dipping to the lowest level since records began, as families delay having children, citing financial concerns and uncertainty due to the pandemic.

The report – which drew on a number of surveys and analysed ONS data to forecast the predictions for the year ahead – predicts that just 569,000 babies are likely to be born in 2021, compared to almost 720,000 ten years ago.

One report, which was conducted in April 2020, found that 58% of people who had planned to have a child in 2021 had decided to postpone their plans, while a further 19% had abandoned them altogether, due to financial concerns, health worries, or other pandemic-related concerns.

Cancelled IVF treatments and weddings have also affected plans to start a family, while the ongoing social restrictions have also made unplanned pregnancies  – which typically account for around a third of UK births – less likely to occur.

Conversely, a survey released by parenting forum Mumsnet in December 2020 revealed that one third of the site users who are currently pregnant say the pandemic played a part in their decision to conceive.

Of those currently pregnant, 30% say the pandemic gave them more time at home with their partner, another 30% say it prompted them to reassess what was important and 33% said it made them feel life was too short to put off important decisions.

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