The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pregnant women and newborns is not limited to the morbidity and mortality from the infection itself. Lockdowns and congestion in health care systems also contribute. Previously, some studies have shown that the number of stillbirths in such conditions can increase. Among the possible reasons for the worsening of the situation, scientists call a decrease in the volume of medical care for pregnant women and the fact that pregnant women have become less likely to visit doctors.
In a new review, scientists analyzed data from 40 studies covering 6 million pregnancies in 17 countries from January 2020 to January 2021. Studies that focused solely on the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection were not included in this analysis. This is the first global assessment of the indirect impact of the pandemic on pregnancy outcomes.
An analysis of data from 12 studies showed that, compared with pre-pandemic rates, the incidence of stillbirth increased by 28%. The maternal mortality studies included in the new review were conducted in two middle-income countries, Mexico and India. In them, maternal mortality in 2020 increased by about a third compared to the previous year.
Three studies showed that the number of surgeries for ectopic (ectopic) pregnancies increased almost sixfold. Scientists point out that with early diagnosis, the condition can be cured with medication. The increase in the number of surgical interventions seems to indicate that women have begun to seek help later.
Preterm births and pregnancy complications (such as gestational diabetes) did not change during the pandemic. In addition, during this period, obstetricians did not use cesarean section and labor induction more often.
Overall, performance was worse in low- and middle-income countries than in rich countries.
“It is clear from our research that the disruptions caused by the pandemic have resulted in preventable maternal and child deaths, especially in low- and middle-income countries. We urge health officials and leaders to prioritize safe, affordable and equitable obstetric care as part of a strategic response to and after the pandemic, ”said Professor Asma Khalil of St George’s University in London.