Single women in their late 30s and early 40s are concerned their opportunity to have children is diminishing, as prolonged Covid-19 lockdown periods prevent them from meeting potential partners, relationship experts have said.
The average age of Irish mothers for births registered in the second quarter of 2020 was 33.1 years, a slight increase on the same period the previous year, according to statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
However, experts have said that fertility in women, while individual for each person, generally undergoes a “major shift” from the age of 35, which can result in difficulty conceiving.
Annie Lavin, a dating relationship coach, said there has been a "huge increase" in people contacting her during the pandemic. One of the things single women are concerned about, she said, is their biological clock.
“What I would see around the fertility concerns is people in their late 30s and early 40s maybe feeling that particular concern.The thing with fertility is we’re not really taught a lot about fertility and fertility options in schools,” Ms Lavin said.
“In the absence of that information, we can believe some statistics that might be quite alarming around age and ability to conceive. The reality with fertility is everyone’s journey is very individual to them.”
She added: “To move into the position of comparing myself to statistics, then yes we can bring ourselves to places where we panic.”
Helena Tubridy, a fertility expert with more than 30 years' experience, said there has been a "major shift" in the clients presenting to her clinic as a result of the pandemic.
“In my practice, and I’ve a very, very busy practice, I am seeing a major shift to worried 38- to 42-year-olds who have the sense that Covid has been ludicrous in shutting down opportunities and the fear of not meeting and mating is so prevalent,” she said.
Jennifer Haskins, director of dating agency Two's Company, said a "lot more people in their 30s" have contacted her business since the onset of the pandemic.
“Time is important. If people are looking to start a family then every month counts, every year counts. And when there is no prospect, because we have no idea how long it will be until society returns to normal, that’s why there has been a lot of people,” she said.
Meanwhile, Willie Daly, the renowned Lisdoonvarna matchmaker, said loneliness and isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been "very prevalent" in single people, particularly men living in more rural areas.
He said his matchmaking business has between three and five men for every woman signed up to his service.
"It's difficult to find love without the pub in Ireland. It's kind of a catastrophe. Romance has kind of been knocked on the head," he added.
The pandemic is also affecting couples, too. According to the dating app Bumble, there has been an increase of “new dawn daters” – people who are newly single after experiencing a break-up during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some 23 per cent of people on Bumble are newly single and while the biggest driver of their pandemic break-ups was the inability to see a partner (46 per cent), one in three people also said the pandemic exacerbated existing issues.
Naomi Walkland, head of Bumble UK and Ireland, said Irish users on the app are "looking for a connection".
“People are really eager to find a partner. About half of the millennials are looking for a relationship, and less than 10 per cent are looking for something casual,” she said.