Nov. 17, 2011 at 4:40 PM ET
The fertility rate is dropping, statistics say. People are simply having fewer children. Experts think the reason can be traced to financial planning by would-be parents wary of their futures.
But is that really the case? Do couples really behave this rationally? A large percentage of all pregnancies are unplanned, so isn’t it also possible that stress, anxiety, boredom, and damaged relationships brought on by economic gloom and doom are simply killing the national sex life?
While some couples no doubt do plan carefully, and opt to delay having children until sunnier days arrive, says psychologist, therapist and TODAY contributor Gail Saltz, people are also preoccupied with money worries. She senses that many more people are experiencing anxiety and stress, and possibly depression, because of the economic pressure of the past four years.
“And when people are worried, they don’t feel like having sex,” she explained. “This is especially true for women. It is darn near impossible for a woman to have an orgasm if she is terribly anxious. A woman can physically have sex, but desire, arousal, orgasm, everything across the board is affected.”
Picture the couple who’s scrimping and saving to make ends meet. They’ve cut out restaurant dinners, movie tickets, vacations, theater-going. They’re sitting in front of the TV in sweatpants watching another episode of “NCIS” or “30 Rock.” They look at each other think, "My God, the last thing I want to do is have sex with this person."
“If you can’t spend any money doing anything fun, if that’s sucked out of the relationship, too, you’ve got no novelty, no playtime,” Saltz explained. Both are critical to stoking libido.
Finally, there’s the inevitable sniping between partners. “Money is the number one thing people fight about,” Saltz said, “but you don’t even have to disagree about it. If you are anxious or one partner is depressed, well, that’s the person you are intimate with and so it gets taken out on you. You have to negotiate it all, and then, no, you don’t really feel like having sex.”
So it’s probably not only considered financial planning that’s responsible for the drop in birth rates – a drop that also occurred during the Great Depression, by the way. Maybe it’s that America is stressed out, bored, and more than a little cranky.