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Belgium’s birth rate on the rise again after pandemic dip, but not in Brussels

16:40 25/09/2022

After declining during the coronavirus pandemic, the birth rate in Belgium is overall on the rise again, according to Belgian statistical office Statbel.

But while both Flanders and Wallonia saw a recovery in the number of births in 2021, the rate has remained slightly lower in Brussels (-1%) than it was in 2020.

The overall birth rate in the country was up 3.7% in 2021 compared to 2020. But while Brussels has typically boasted a higher birth rate than the other two regions, this has not been the case post-Covid.

The Centre D'Epidémiologie Périnatale (CEP) noted in its 2020 report that births in the capital region were already on a steady decline, with “a 9.8% decrease in the number of births between 2012 and 2020”.

And while many people speculated that the lockdowns would prompt a post-Covid baby boom, this has not happened.

Saint-Pierre hospital’s maternity ward recorded 3,110 births in 2019 and 2,634 in 2021.

“The precariousness experienced by many Brussels families, the difficulties in finding accommodation, putting children in school, the fragile situation many families find themselves in, all of this does not make people want to have babies,” Bénédicte Goubau, head of the Saint-Pierre maternity ward told RTBF.

“The pandemic in 2020 and the current energy crisis have not made things any better. On the contrary, families who have been coping until now are also falling into precariousness.”

As well as the birth rate in Brussels being in decline, the average age of a woman giving birth in Brussels has risen from 30.9 to 32.1 years between 2011 and 2019, according to the CEP.

This is a higher average than elsewhere, as is the proportion of new mothers aged 40 (7.2% in Brussels compared to 3.7% in the other regions).

Specialists separately observe that the health of mothers in Brussels is increasingly worrying, with too many of them overweight, diabetic or suffering from high blood pressure.

In the Brussels region, 40% of expectant mothers are now overweight or even obese, and one in six suffers from diabetes.

“A significant proportion of our patients suffer from chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity, and often they are less able to keep track of their health because their priorities are elsewhere,” Goubau added.

“Unfortunately, we know that this will have an impact on their unborn children and on their future lives. This is an alarming finding in Brussels, where 40% of children are at risk of poverty.”

Written by Helen Lyons