Analyzing Jamaican Fertility Trends as Birth Rates Continue to Decline
The average number of registered births in Jamaica peaked in 1966 with about 71,400 births being registered that year. After a steady decline in birth rate, the average number of births during 2015 barely reached 37,600. In 2017 the number of babies being born decreased by as much as 22% between January and March alone according to the Ministry’s quarterly report. While there was speculation that the latter decrease was due to the 2016 Zika epidemic, it could also possibly be attributed to the fact that more women are waiting to have children, focusing on getting an education and becoming financially secure prior to starting a family. An increase in the popularity of contraception has also been listed as a possible reason for the rapid decline in Jamaica’s birth rate.
Jamaica set to become an aging population
The decreased birth rate in the country is indicating that Jamaica is evolving to become an ageing population. If you look at the individual population segments it becomes apparent that the child population is on the decline due to less babies being born. That said, the country is displaying an increased youth population (ages 15 to 24), an increased working-age population (ages 15 to 64) and a substantially larger senior population which consists of individuals 60 years and older.
Teen pregnancies on the decline
In accordance with the overall decreased birth rate in Jamaica, the teenage pregnancy rate is also declining. The prevalence of teenage pregnancies have decreased from 31% in the 1970s to just under 18% in 2008, and is still declining. According to Dr. Zoe Simpson, executive director of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), evidence from the centre’s recruitment initiatives suggests that teenage pregnancies decrease annually. Dr. Simpson further went on to state that a vital component of the centre’s intervention programme is contraceptive counseling aimed at preventing secondary pregnancies in teens. Of those who do not receive the counseling, as many as 52% have second pregnancies, also while still in their teens.
The long-term effects of the Zika epidemic lingers on
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that there is no evidence that the Zika virus, which caused an epidemic in 2016, will cause birth defects in the future pregnancies of women who were infected by the virus. It was previously determined that the virus, which is passed on to human via mosquito bites, was only of any real danger to pregnant women as it leads to multiple babies being born with microcephaly, a condition that results in shrunken heads and brain damage.
It is now being assumed that men who were infected with the virus may face future infertility problems. According to a number of UK-based experts, the findings of a range of new studies coincides with multiple reports that found that men infected with the Zika virus suffered from extreme pain in the pelvic region and also had blood in their urine – symptoms that are very similar to those of other sexually transmitted infections. If the fertility of Jamaican men exposed to the virus is indeed compromised, the country could experience an even greater decline in birth rate.
While many countries in the world are facing population booms of such magnitude that they simply do not have the resources to support everyone, the picture in Jamaica is completely different. As one of the few countries in the world where the birth rate is decreasing steadily without enforced population control, the rest of the world can learn a lot from the humble nation in the Caribbean.