The list of negative consequences of the worldwide coronavirus lockdown is extensive, to say the least. From job loss to mental health strains to economic backfire, it seems the positive things are harder to come by.
However, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) doctors all over the world are noticing a trend. Hospitals in several countries saw major dips in premature births during the lockdown.
“In the Netherlands, Dr. Michael Christiansen of the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen and his colleagues used newborn data to compare births nationwide during the strictest lockdown period, March 12 to April 14, with births during the same period in the previous five years. The data set included more than 31,000 infants. The researchers found that during the lockdown, the rate of babies born before 28 weeks had dropped by a startling 90 percent.” – NY Times
Ireland, Australia, United States, and Canada studies have all reported similar trends.
So, why would this be?
There are several factors that may be contributing to this shift in prematurity rates. First, stress. Staying home for most expecting mothers means more time with family, less stress from work, more sleep and less obligations. Second, less possibility of infections. By staying home, we have prevented not just coronavirus from spreading but many other infections as well. Third, air pollution. Air pollution has been linked to premature births in the past and staying home means less cars on the road and less exposure to these pollutants.
“The Danish and Irish researchers have now teamed up and are building an international group of collaborators to study how Covid lockdowns affected early births. “For years, nothing has advanced in this very important area,” Dr. Christiansen said, “and it seems it took a virus attack to help us get on track.” – NY Times
While the exact reason for this is unknown, these trends certainly will guide upcoming prematurity research. Who knows, maybe the lockdown really will give the world some big benefits.
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Jeri Ford, RN, BSN, CPN