News that a mother in Cyprus gave birth to her ninth child was reported on Wednesday against a backdrop of mounting concerns over the island’s falling fertility rates. According to the latest data, Cyprus has a fertility rate of just 1.3 children per woman – the 14th lowest in the world.

Data from the interior ministry showed 500 fewer babies were born in 2022 than the preceding year–a total of 7,316 children compared with 7,867 in 2021, SigmaLive reported.

Some have speculated that the pandemic quarantine nudged many couples to take the leap into parenthood or have another child.

A breakdown of the 2022 numbers shows most mothers had their first or second child (3,510 and 2,751 respectively). The numbers drop steeply for those having their third child (790) and even further for those having their fourth (177). Mothers having their fifth child was down to double digits (25) while eight had their sixth, three their seventh, two their eighth and one mother had her ninth child.

The data obtained concerned only Greek Cypriot mothers.

The health ministry on Wednesday meanwhile promoted legislation to increase subsidies for infertility treatments and make them easier to obtain.

Health Minister Popi Kanari, speaking on Tuesday night at an event on the topic, said the subsidies will include storage of eggs by women aiming to preserve their fertility over time.

Success rates for infertility procedures, however, decline steeply depending on the cause of the infertility, as well as with age, and treatments are not without risk.

In 2019, the UKs NIH reported the percentage of IVF treatments resulting in live births to be just shy of one third (32 per cent) for women in the youngest category, that is, under 35. Success rates plummeted to 25 per cent for women aged up to 37, with a continuing drop reaching to merely 4 to 5 per cent for women aged 43 and over.

Early family planning thus looms large as a critical piece of the puzzle and needs to be addressed in any policy-driven efforts to raise the country’s birth rate.

The health minister noted that the average Cypriot woman currently gives birth to her first child at the age of 32. Women should be encouraged to begin planning a family as early as possible, the minister said, since even natural fertility decreases noticeably after the age of 35.

Among other proposed actions are awareness-raising and management of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which if not treated promptly, increase infertility, especially for women.

Moreover, it is important to know that having children later in life may add physical, psychological and financial stressors, particularly for those embarking on the journey to parenthood via assisted reproduction, the minister said.