With her husband unemployed by pandemic, the last thing the Indonesian mother Juarsih demanded was to get pregnant, but now she is expecting a third child – one of many in the country preparing anxiously for a baby boom prompted by Covida.
Indonesian authorities believe there may be 400,000 more births than usual next year as blockades keep couples at home and shorten access to contraception, fearing an increase in abortions and stunting of children in poorer families.
Juarsih, 41, says her birth control failed after clinics closed or closed for hours, and shaken hospitals tried to keep up with rising coronavirus infections in the world’s fourth most populous country.
The mother of two teenagers is now very frightened by the deadly respiratory illness to risk going out for a pregnancy check in her hometown of Bandung, on the island of Java.
“At first I was shocked to find out I was pregnant,” she said.
“I started to feel happy later even though there are still some sadness … I have to be grateful but this is happening at a difficult time.”
The use of contraception has “dropped drastically” since the pandemic took place across the archipelago spread in early March, AFP chief Hasto Wardoyo, head of the national population board and family planning, told AFP.
Health authorities are concerned that the rising number of expectant parents will turn into abortions and boost maternal mortality.
“We’re also concerned about stunting – not all families can afford the right food,” he said.
– “Fathers, please check yourself” –
With access to hospitals and difficult contraceptives, health authorities have been forced to become creative.
A campaign saw health workers in government vehicles traversing communities to announce that now was not the time to have a child.
“You can have sex,” calls a message as workers tread through a village.
“You can get married. But don’t get pregnant.”
“Fathers, please check yourself … You can have sex as long as you use contraception.”
Birth control has been a key plan for a family planning push launched by the late Indonesian dictator Suharto for half a century.
The program was later applauded by population control measures that saw a sharp drop in the country’s fertility levels at the time.
Authorities this week launched a daily crackdown aimed at giving contraceptives to one million citizens.
Condoms are not popular in Indonesia, where about 98 percent of contraceptive users are women, mostly injecting hormones and birth control pills.
The Family Planning Agency also recorded the help of celebrities with large social media followers to get the word out to nearly 270 million people in the country.
– ‘Corona baby’ –
At a health clinic in the capital Jakarta on Monday, Rahma’s mother and two took advantage of the leaflets, admitting that there had been more romance in her family since the virus struck.
“My husband has spent a lot more time at home,” she laughed.
“But since I’m using this program I’m not worried about having more babies.”
However, fear of infection is keeping many at home like Ratna Dewi Nur Amalia, who has decided to rely on designing her menstrual cycle in hopes of avoiding pregnancy.
“I wanted to go to the gynecologist for my birth control, but then the pandemic happened,” said Amalia, 39.
“I’m very scared to go somewhere near a hospital.”
Nearly 3,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Indonesia, according to an official, but independent researchers say the actual number could be several times higher.
Budget cuts and a decentralized political structure across the country have already made it difficult to educate the public about family planning.
“Now health workers are very busy focusing on treating patients with corona, so birth control services have been pushed aside,” said Kusmana, head of the West Java family planning agency, which goes by a single name. .
But work orders from the pandemic home were an unexpected blessing for Arie Novarina and her husband after nearly two years of fruitless efforts by the busy couple.
The 38-year-old is now pregnant with her first child.
“Maybe it was because we were healthier and not exhausted, and we had a lot of quality time together at home,” said Novarina, an employee of the state firm.
“My husband and I joke that this is a child with a crown.”
Indonesian authorities believe there could be more than 400,000 births more than usual next year as blockades keep couples at home and shorten access to contraception
For many people throughout the widespread archipelago, blockages and house orders have meant more romance at home.
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