VANCOUVER -- People shouldn't expect a bump in births due to the COVID-19, according to a UBC professor leading a national study on sexual health during the pandemic.

Dr. Lori Brotto of the Faculty of Medicine said preliminary findings from her surveys show the opposite of a pandemic baby boom: people aren’t have as much sex, due to the amount of stress they are under.

“I think one of the assumptions was, well ... what are you possibly going to do with all of this time?” Brotto explained.

What is actually happening behind closed doors is that people are under incredible amounts of stress, whether it’s due to finances, childcare or homeschooling, taking care of elders, or fear of contracting COVID-19.

“We know that stress is a powerful deterrent to sexual interest and sexual activity,” Brotto said, calling the stereotype that people are having more sex during the pandemic “unhealthy,” because it can make people feel worse than they already are if they believe the myth.

The study is also tracking gender-based violence during the pandemic. Brotto said it’s too early to quantify, but the surveys are indicating that spending more time at home for some means spending more time with an abusive partner.

“This is unfortunate and it’s not surprising because we have seen this in past pandemics,” Brotto observed.

“That does not surprise me at all,” added Angela Marie MacDougall, director of Vancouver’s Battered Women’s Support Services.

The organization increased the hours of operation for its crisis line after seeing an alarming spike in calls for help earlier in the pandemic.

MacDougall said the spike has since “plateaued,” but call volume is still high enough to warrant keeping the crisis line open on a 24/7 basis.

“The calls to our crisis line continue to be upward of 300 per cent more than what we received pre-COVID-19,” MacDougall said.

The UBC study is based on online surveys of more than 900 Canadians. Participants answer a confidential questionnaire every four weeks for a duration of six months. Topics include sexual behaviour, relationship status, anxiety and depression levels.

Brotto's research will also track how sexual behaviour changes as physical distancing guidelines are relaxed, in hopes of learning more about the role stress plays in overall health and sexuality.

“It’s important that people seek out accurate evidence-based information when it comes to sexuality and not to believe the stereotypes that pervade our society,” she added.