A misleading baby boom

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The Czech Statistical Office presented us with optimistic news on Thursday and the Czech papers were full of it. The number of children being born in the Czech Republic per year is on the rise. Last year, they totalled 102,211; that's 4,500 more than the year before and the highest number in over a decade.

But the factors that can be attributed to last year's baby boom have nothing to do with Czechs having more babies. Back in the 1990s, women in their twenties put off having children in hopes of developing a career as new opportunities opened with the fall of communism. And these women, who are now between the ages of 32 and 37, are now having kids. The Czech Republic can also thank the thirty thousand immigrants - mostly from Ukraine, Slovakia, and Vietnam, who have moved to the country with plans to stay. Many of them are having kids. But on average, women in the Czech Republic give birth to the odd figure of 1.3 babies and experts are urging them to increase that number to at least two in order to avoid a drastic demographic shift. Unlike thirty years ago when women gave birth in their early twenties, most mothers today are in their late twenties and a third of them are even in their early thirties.

The good news is that the number of abortions per one thousand pregnancies has dropped significantly. In the 1970s it stood at nine; today it lies at four.

So, has what looked like a groundbreaking turnaround in family planning in the Czech Republic turned out to be little cause for celebration? The number of new-born babies is still lower than the number of deaths, which surpassed the amount of births last year by five thousand. Warnings of an ageing population are still grounded and experts continue to project that Czechs will 'die out' if they don't step up reproduction fast.

Well, no matter what the cause, the baby boom certainly made a mark on my life. And, as I recently found out from two more women, I was not alone. We all suffered from inexplicable health problems and the symptoms were the same as those attributed to morning sickness. We were not expecting but since many women around us were, we experienced phantom pregnancies.