• Research
  • Discovery
  • Development
WIRF is one of Australia's leading organisations that is dedicated to improving the health of women and infants.

Lockdowns leading to fewer preterm births

John-and-baby-(3).jpgThe link between the imposed Coronavirus lockdowns and rates of early preterm birth will be the focus of a pioneering new Australia-wide study.

Led by the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, the study will provide a comprehensive Australian context to reports out of Denmark, Ireland, the US and Canada of fewer preterm babies being born through the pandemic.

In Denmark, a whole of nation study between March 12 and April 14 reported a 90% reduction in birth below 28 weeks gestation when compared with the previous five years. In Ireland, an unprecedented reduction in very low birthweight deliveries was observed in one region, amounting to a 73% decrease.

A similar reduction has been reported in the general media in Calgary, Canada. None of these reports has yet been published in peer reviewed journals.

Study lead and Deputy Chair of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, Professor Jonathan Morris said the anecdotal downward trends represent an unexpected but welcome side-effect of the pandemic.

“Our study will investigate if the rate of early preterm birth in the various regions of Australia has been reduced during the lockdown,” he said.

Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the North Shore Private Hospital, Prof Morris said particular attention would be paid to the different gestational ages in the preterm period, whether the pregnancies were single or multiple, and whether the rate of stillbirth had changed.

“The results of the Australia-wide experience are required urgently, as lockdowns remain in some areas and may be re-commenced in others. The resurgence we are seeing in Victoria and warning signs in New South Wales makes this work all the more time critical.”

Chair of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance and 2020 Senior Australian of the Year, Professor John Newnham AM said there were many potential explanations for the drop in premature births.

“Possible factors protecting a pregnancy from early preterm birth by lockdown tend to involve the consequences of women staying at home, including the increase in physical rest, reduced exposure to infectious diseases and reduced exposure to air pollution,” Prof Newham said.

“An increased risk of stillbirth from women not accessing health care services is also something which needs to be looked at.”

The Alliance Study will provide an array of different scenarios enabling investigation of the effects of lockdown in various settings, mixed with the potential influences of drought, fire, Covid-19 infection and lockdown.

It is hoped the results for each state and territory, and Australia as a whole, will be available by the end of 2020.

The Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance was formed in 2018 with the single goal of safely lowering the rate of preterm birth in Australia. There is representation from each of Australia’s six states and two territories, together with all the relevant disciplines and fields of health care.

For more information visit The Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance website.

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest announcements, news and updates.

Contact details

Women and Infants Research Foundation
Carson House, King Edward Memorial Hospital
374 Bagot Road, Subiaco, WA 6008

Telephone: 08 6458 1437
Fax: 08 6458 1642
Email: info@wirf.com.au

Social Media