Preterm birth and stillbirth rates during the COVID-19 pandemic: A population-based cohort study

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Background: Conflicting reports have emerged for rates of preterm births and stillbirths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these reports did not account for natural variation in these rates. We aimed to evaluate variations in preterm birth and stillbirth rates before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, Canada. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using linked population health administrative databases of pregnant people giving birth in any hospital in Ontario between July 2002 and December 2020. We calculated preterm birth and stillbirth rates. We assessed preterm birth at 22-28, 29-32 and 33-36 weeks' gestation, and stillbirths at term and preterm gestation. We used Laney control P' charts for the 18-year study period (6-mo observation periods) and interrupted time-series analyses for monthly rates for the most recent 4 years. Results: We evaluated 2 465 387 pregnancies, including 13 781 that resulted in stillbirth. The mean preterm birth rate for our cohort was 7.96% (range 7.32%-8.59%). From January to December 2020, we determined that the preterm birth rate in Ontario was 7.87%, with no special cause variation. The mean stillbirth rate for the cohort was 0.56% (range 0.48%-0.70%). From January to December 2020, the stillbirth rate was 0.53%, with no special cause variation. We did not find any special cause variation for preterm birth or stillbirth subgroups. We found no changes in slope or gap between prepandemic and pandemic periods using interrupted timeseries analyses. Interpretation: In Ontario, Canada, we found no special cause variation (unusual change) in preterm birth or stillbirth rates, overall or by subgroups, during the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the previous 17.5 years.




Shah, P. S., Ye, X. Y., Yang, J., & Campitelli, M. A. (2021). Preterm birth and stillbirth rates during the COVID-19 pandemic: A population-based cohort study. CMAJ, 193(30), E1164–E1172.

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