Fertility Attitudes amid Successive Novel Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Leticia J. Marteleto, University of Texas at Austin
Molly Dondero, American University
Alexandre Gori Maia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas

We examine attitudes about a major life decision, childbearing, during the Covid-19 pandemic among women of reproductive age, who less than three years before the start of the pandemic in 2020 lived in the epicenter of another novel infectious disease outbreak: the Zika virus epidemic of 2015-2017. Integrating a demography of epidemics framework with an innovative survey experiment from a sample of 3,998 women in Pernambuco, the Brazilian state hardest hit by the Zika epidemic, we examine whether and how a reminder of the reproductive consequences and uncertainty of the Zika epidemic shape women’s attitudes toward childbearing during the Covid-19 pandemic. We find that women who are reminded of the degree of uncertainty that permeated the beginning of the Zika epidemic and the severity of the consequences of the virus, particularly in Brazil, are more likely to agree that women should avoid childbearing during the Covid-19 pandemic. This suggests that more than three years after the Zika epidemic ended, the specter of Zika remains salient and influences how women think about childbearing during public health crises.

Keywords: Fertility and childbirth, COVID-19

See paper.

  Presented in Session 171. COVID-19 and Fertility