“Today, in Portugal, we are breaking a historic record”, said the demography specialist, referring to data records obtained since 1911.
“We've never had such a low number of births in Portugal,” she stressed.
The “heel prick test” that covers almost all births in Portugal tracked less than 80,000 babies in 2021, for the first time in the country, according to data by the Ricardo Jorge National Institute of Health (INSA).
“This has to do with the year in which the babies were conceived”, said Maria João Valente Rosa, associating the drop in births with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They were children conceived in the middle of a pandemic”, said the professor at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
The uncertainty associated with the crisis caused by the pandemic, in terms of work, but also in terms of health, the fear of contracting Covid, of not having adequate medical care, the problems with visits to hospitals and in the monitoring of deliveries, weighed heavily on the decision to have a child according to the demographer.
“We have to understand this data in light of the pandemic. Births were already dropping a lot, but we've never had such low values,” she said.
According to the expert, many parents will have postponed the decision to have a child. As the average age of maternity is already very high (over 30 years old) and the childbearing age of a woman is between 15 and 50 years old, in statistical terms, delayed births can result in “missed births”.
“This period was marked by highly difficult situations. Portugal has never recorded such low values in its history”, underlined Maria João Valente Rosa.
Last year, 79,217 newborns were studied under the National Neonatal Screening Program (PNRN), 6,239 fewer than in 2020 (85,456).
According to the expert, the drop in the number of births associated with the increase in the number of deaths will make Portugal close the year with an "extremely negative" natural population balance.