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This article is part of the supplement: Women's Health Surveillance Report

Open Access Report

The impact of a reduced fertility rate on women's health

Jennifer Payne

Author Affiliations

Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Health Canada, 120 Colonnade Rd, Ottawa, Canada

BMC Women's Health 2004, 4(Suppl 1):S11  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-4-S1-S11

Published: 25 August 2004

Abstract

Health Issue

Total fertility rates (TFRs) have decreased worldwide. The Canadian fertility rate has gone from 3.90 per woman in 1960 to 1.49 in 2000. However, not many studies have examined the impact on women's health of reduced fertility rates, delayed fertility and more births to unmarried women. This paper presents information on the relation between family size and specific determinants of health.

Key Findings

The rate of TFR decline varies considerably by geographic location and socio-demographic subgroup. Further, the associations between family size and selected determinants of health are different for women and men. For example a woman with one child is almost four times more likely to be "coupled" than a childless woman, and if she has two children she is significantly more likely to be "coupled" than if she had only one child. However, a man with one or more children is over six times more likely to be "coupled" than his childless counterpart, and this does not vary with family size.

Data Gaps and Recommendations

There is a paucity of data on the impact of reduced fertility rates on women's health in general and on how women's roles affect their decision to have children. While it would be useful to examine longer-term health outcomes by parity and age of first birth, as well as socio-economic and role-related variables these longitudinal and detailed "role related" data are not available. Given the differing profiles of women and men with children, further health policies research is needed to support vulnerable women with children.