An array of studies show that stillbirths have surged globally following lockdowns imposed in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, and researchers speculate the link could be from pregnant women avoiding hospitals and clinics out of fear of catching the virus while seeking prenatal care.
What are the details?
Nature cited a slew of studies this week in reporting that stillbirth rates have risen "dramatically" since the pandemic began, and that "emerging data link disrupted pregnancy services to [the] increase in stillbirths."
Jane Warland, a specialist in midwifery at the University of South Australia in Adelaide told the outlet, "What we've done is cause an unintended spike in stillbirth while trying to protect [pregnant women] from COVID-19."
Stillbirths were reported to have risen 50% in the largest study conducted, which followed 20,000 women in Nepal.
Nature noted, "The sharpest rise was observed during the first four weeks of the lockdown, under which people were allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and receive essential care."
Studies from India, the United Kingdom, and Scotland also showed the same disturbing trend.
Perinatal epidemiologist Ashish K.C. at Uppsala University in Sweden, who conducted the Nepal study, also blamed lockdowns on the high stillbirth rates rather than the coronavirus infections. K.C. pointed to the fact that many pregnant women studied had appointments canceled due to restrictions, were unable to use public transportation due to shutdowns, and said others likely avoided in-person clinic visits out of fear of contracting COVID-19.
Data indicates those fears have justification, too. CBS News reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on COVID-19 and pregnancy this week that shows pregnant women infected with the coronavirus were 25% more likely to have preterm deliveries.
A separate report from the CDC earlier this year noted that "pregnancy was associated with hospitalization and increased risk for intensive care unit admission, and receipt of mechanical ventilation, but not with death."
The Daily Mail pointed out:
In May, a poll found that nearly half of pregnant women were afraid to be in public and risk exposing themselves - and their unborn babies to coronavirus.
With non-essential medical appointments discouraged, many prenatal visits moved online.
It was an important stop-gap, but ran the risk of missed signs of symptoms that could imperil a pregnancy, such as an irregular fetal heartbeat, or preeclampsia, a form of pregnancy-related high blood pressure that can raise risks of stillbirth.