COVID lockdowns halve planned early births

30 Jul 2021

A University of Queensland and Mater Research study has shown the number of expectant mothers admitted to hospital for a planned early birth dramatically halved during the early stages of the first COVID-lockdown in 2020.

Mothers are usually admitted for a planned early caesarean or induced birth to ensure the safety of the mother and baby if a medical issue arises.

UQ Head of Academy and Mayne Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Professor Sailesh Kumar said some behaviour associated with self-isolation might have driven the lower numbers.

“More time at home may have led to reduced work and social-related stress, improved sleep quality and diet, which in turn perhaps led to an overall improvement of pregnancy outcomes,” Professor Kumar said.

“Importantly our study also showed that the number of stillbirths or newborns needing emergency care did not increase during this period.”

The analysis of de-identified obstetric and neonatal data from electronic healthcare records at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital between March and April 2020 were compared to admissions over the previous seven years.

UQ researcher and lead author Dr Linda Gallo said the study provided a valuable insight into factors that affect maternal health.

“Understanding the behaviours that might influence maternal health will hopefully help care providers advise mothers about how they can best look after themselves to lower the risk of birth complications,” Dr Gallo said.

“We are now expanding this study by working with our interstate and international colleagues to examine how lockdowns in different states and countries have influenced preterm births.

“Our expanded study will look at these factors and hopefully the data of a broader cross-section of experiences will give us a better idea of the triggers for pre-term birth given the current pandemic.”

The research has been published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (  

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