One in 5 women say they want more children now than pre-COVID-19, Evernorth survey finds

Despite the impacts of COVID-19, a majority of women are still planning to expand their families, according to a new survey.

Researchers at Cigna's Evernorth surveyed 2,000 women aged 25 to 45 with employer-sponsored health insurance and 60% said they do not intend to change their plans to have children amid the pandemic.

In addition, nearly 20% of respondents aged 35 to 45 said that they want to have more children now than they did prior to the pandemic. Overall, 13% said they want more children than previously planned pre-COVID.

"Evernorth set out to understand the impact that months of coping with jobs, virtual school, myriad other household responsibilities, and an altogether different home environment had on women's desire to have children in the wake of the pandemic," said Kajaal Patel, director of product management for Evernorth's Freedom Fertility Pharmacy, in a statement. "Despite facing extraordinary challenges, the majority of women we surveyed are not changing their plans to grow their families, and in fact, up to 25% are accelerating their plans.

RELATED: Cigna's Evernorth launching fertility solution FamilyPath

More than half (54%) of those surveyed said the pandemic helped them recognize the importance of family, making them more interested in having children, and 42% said they were interested because they have greater flexibility and time at home.

Of the women who said they planned to delay or did not want to have more children, 80% cited practical and financial reasons as the main factor, according to the survey.

Evernorth claims data found a 3% increase in fertility claims in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the report, and nearly half of the surveyed women who are undergoing fertility treatment began such treatment during the pandemic.

Among those who paused their treatment due to COVID, 75% said they have since restarted fertility treatment or plan to do so within a year.

Forty percent of those surveyed, including those who don't want to have more children, reported higher sexual activity amid the pandemic and 10% reported a decrease in birth control use in tandem.

In tandem, women are increasingly expecting their employers to offer fertility benefits, the survey found. Three in four reported interest in such benefits from their health plan or employer, and a third said they would change or encourage their partner to change jobs to access better coverage for pregnancy, fertility treatment or adoption.

"For the growing number of women in their late 30s and early 40s expressing a desire to have more children, comprehensive fertility benefits can offer a safer and more affordable path to parenthood," said Heather Trimble, vice president of product development at Evernorth's eviCore healthcare, in a statement. "Employers need to prepare for the fact that the demand for broader family-building benefits is only going to increase in the years ahead.