Unplanned Postponement of First and Second Birth in the Czech Republic

Jitka Slabá, Department of Demography and Geodemography, Faculty of Science, Charles University
Anna Stastna, Department of Demography and Geodemography, Faculty of Science, Charles University
Jiřina Kocourková, Department of Demography and Geodemography, Faculty of Science, Charles University

In recent years, the transition to childbearing at a later age has made up one of the most striking features of demographic change. Employing survey data, the paper analyses the causes and consequences of fertility postponement in the Czech Republic. We focus on the individual level of fertility postponement and the main emphasis is placed upon subjective interpretations thereof thanks to the Czech survey “Women 2016” (N=1257 women born in the period 1966-1990) including information on childbearing plans and timing, the subsequent realisation of these plans and reasons for timing plans not being fulfilled.

The paper focus on the planned age of childbearing and on the reasons for women failing to fulfil their plans and postponing childbearing for a much longer period than they originally envisaged. The unplanned postponement of both first and second births is analysed and the principal reasons identified. The context and reasons for unplanned postponement are analysed in detail with regard to the various socio-demographic characteristics of the women surveyed.

The results indicate that the key factors behind unplanned childbearing postponement consist of the lack of a suitable partner and health complications (concerning either the woman or her partner, and problems connected with conception which result in it taking longer than expected to become pregnant). It was concluded that unsuitable material conditions for having a child and factors related to education and labour market conditions made up less significant reasons for postponing motherhood and were cited as important principally by childless women in the youngest cohorts surveyed.


Unplanned postponement of first andsecond birth in the Czech Republic

 

In recent years, the transition to childbearing at alater age has made up one of the most striking features of demographic change,and fertility postponement is also evident with respect to the Czech Republicover the last 25 years. A gradual transition to the older age reproductionmodel is evident from the sharp rise in mean age at first birth. In the 1970sand 1980s, the Czech population exhibited relatively high fertility (TFR≥ 1.9), concentrated in the 20-24 age cohort. Whereas in 1992 the meanage at first birth was 22.5 years, today it stands at 28.2 years (2016), anincrease of 5.7 years in less than a quarter of a century. Moreover, the TFR wasbelow the lowest low threshold for an entire decade, i.e. it did not exceed 1.3for the whole of the 1995-2005 period. The low TFR and the change in the timingof childbearing in Central and Eastern European countries have formed thesubject of a number of analyses and have been interpreted differently in bothCzech and foreign literature (e.g. Rychtaøíková 1996, Rabušic 2001a,b, Sobotkaet al. 2003, Sobotka 2008, Lesthaege - Surkyn 2002, Philipov 2002).

This paper is based on the postponement transition theory(Kohler et al., 2002) and focuses on fertility postponement at the individuallevel. The main emphasis is placed upon subjective interpretations of fertilitypostponement. In addition to the age at which women plan to have children, theanalysis focuses on whether women’s reproductive plans are fulfilled in termsof age and the reasons women postpone having children to a later age thanoriginally envisaged. We focus on the unplanned postponement of both first andsecond births.

We use data from a sample survey which includesquestions on childbearing plans and timing, the subsequent realisation of theseplans and reasons for their non-fulfilment. We employ the “Women 2016” survey,which partly follows up on the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) which was conductedin the Czech Republic in 2005 and 2008. In 2016, women born in 1966-1990 includedin the database of respondents from the second wave of GGS in 2008 werere-interviewed using a questionnaire designed specifically for this research.In total, 1,257 women were interviewed.

Basic descriptive statistics and factor analysis are usedto assess declared reasons for the initial unscheduled delay in childbirth andKaplan-Meier survival curves are employed when analysing how the initialunplanned childbirth postponement influenced second birth timing.

The results reveal that nearly a third of women in the1966-1990 cohorts indicated that their first child was born or would be bornlater than they originally planned to have children. Not having a child by theage at which the woman planned to have her first child was observed (Table 1)primarily concerning women with tertiary-level education (44%), women bornbetween 1983 and 1990 (46%) and women who planned to have children at the ageof 30 or over (47%). The length of the unplanned delay by mothers was found tobe significant, i.e. the first child was born on average 3.4 years later thanthe age at which women originally planned to have children (median 3 years).

In the case of second births, unplanned postponementwas observed with respect to 34% of women who already had or planned to have atleast two children. Again, the length of the unplanned delay is important, i.e.3 years on average (median 2 years) for women with at least 2 children.

The key factors behind the unplanned postponement of childbirthconsist of the lack of a suitable partner and health complications (concerningeither the woman or her partner, and problems connected with conception whichresult in it taking longer than expected to become pregnant). Unsuitablematerial conditions for having a child and factors related to education andlabour market conditions were cited as important reasons for postponingmotherhood principally by childless women in the youngest cohorts surveyed.However, these factors were found to decrease in importance with concern towomen who had already become mothers. The main reason mothers cited for notfulfilling their reproductive time plans consisted of difficulties in becomingpregnant, which women in particular are generally unaware of until they attemptto conceive. (Table 2)

The unplanned postponement of entering motherhood isalso reflected in the timing of second births. Even though women who give birthto their first child later than originally planned tend to have a second child withina shorter birth interval, second births are still frequently postponed to ahigher age than originally planned. Accordingly, health problems andunfavourable partnership situations emerge as important reasons for unplannedpostponement; nonetheless, the later commencement of first-birth motherhood remainsthe most frequently cited reason.

 

 

 

Presented in Session 1233: Posters