The number of births registered in France in January fell by 13% compared to January 2020, an unprecedented drop since 1975 which “could be linked” to the Covid-19 pandemic, Insee announced Thursday.

The 53,900 babies born in January 2021 were mostly conceived at the start of the first confinement, introduced in mid-March 2020. However, “the context of health crisis and high uncertainty may have discouraged couples from procreating” or “them. encourage them to postpone their parenting plans for several months, ”observes the Institute for Statistical Studies.

During the first confinement, “the medically assisted procreation centers were closed”, observe the authors of this study, who note, however, that conversely, the use of voluntary termination of pregnancy “could have been more complicated” .

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The epidemic “played an important role”

The birth rate has been falling steadily for six years, but the fall observed in January is “out of all proportion to the declines that have been observed in the past”, underlines INSEE. “You have to go back to 1975, the end of the baby boom, to observe a phenomenon of such magnitude,” he adds.

However, in December 2020, the drop in births compared to December 2019 had already been “pronounced”, with -7% over one year. This double monthly statistic “leaves little doubt about the important role played by the context of the pandemic on this development”, according to INSEE.

A one-off or prolonged postponement?

In the coming months, observes the institute, the monthly statistics of births will make it possible to assess whether this drop in December and January is a “one-off phenomenon at the start of a pandemic”. In other words, a “postponement of parenthood projects for only a few months” or on the contrary if it marks the “beginning of a more lasting trend”, which would have seen the health and economic crisis encourage couples to postpone permanently, or even to abandon their plan to conceive a child.

A declining birth rate in 2020

The data for December 2020, published on February 25, also make it possible to refine – downwards – the first estimates on the birth rate in France in 2020 published on January 19 by INSEE, and which already showed very low figures. .

INSEE now estimates at only 735,000 the number of babies born in France in 2020 (-2.5% in one year), a number that had never been so low since the end of the Second World War.