Is the Czech baby boom over and did it ever happen?

Photo: European Commission

In recent years the media, including Radio Prague, repeatedly reported about the Czech Republic experiencing a baby boom. It seemed obvious: statisticians reported increasing birth figures, maternity hospitals were bursting at the seams and mothers had to register months ahead of their delivery to secure a place. So is the baby boom now over and in fact – did it ever happen?

Photo: European Commission
After the fall of communism, this country experienced a sharp fall in the number of babies born every year. In the 1990s, young women put off having children as new career and travel opportunities opened up for them and new methods of contraception became available. But the number of childbirths rose again in the first decade of the new millennium when those women finally started families. Obstetrician Antonín Pařízek from the General University Hospital in Prague, where some 4,500 babies are born every year, explains the phenomenon.

“In the Czech Republic from 2002-03 we recorded a growing birth rate. From around 90,000 childbirths we went to 115,000 – 117,000 babies born annually. It was a significant increase but mathematically speaking it was not a baby boom. At the same time, the number of maternity hospitals went down from 130 to under a hundred. So we had a higher birth rate and a lower number of hospitals which meant that some hospitals had problems meeting the demand. This concerned especially hospitals in Prague. And because it was in Prague, the problem was very apparent. And journalists used the term baby boom as an attractive simplification.”

Antonín Pařízek
According to statistics, Czech obstetricians managed the rise in the number of childbirths successfully, without compromising the country’s low perinatal mortality – one of the lowest in Europe and worldwide. The Czech Republic’s birth rate seems to have peaked in 2008 and now the figures are stagnating. So what is the future outlook? Doctor Pařízek again.

“We now expect a steady decrease - around 100,000 births per year. This country has a good prenatal care system. We have a three-tier system of maternity hospitals. Some 95 percent of high-risk and pathological pregnancies are transported in time to specialized facilities – perinatological centres where we are able to provide the best possible perinatological care.”

With the alleged baby boom now over, doctors say they still face new challenges, most notably premature births which are on the increase as a result of multiple pregnancies in women who have undergone in vitro fertilization.