Some doctors see decline in premature births during COVID-19 lockdowns

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A team of doctors in Ireland and Denmark are working to determine if COVID-19 lockdowns have any positive impact on premature birth rates.

As first reported in the New York Times, the doctors found premature births had significantly dropped during lockdowns in their respective regions but couldn't figure out why.

In the study, researchers used low birth weight as a representative for premature births and compared data from Jan. to April 2020 to the same time periods since 2001. In Ireland, they found that the "very low birth weight" national rate saw a 73 percent reduction from Jan. to April this year compared to the last two decades.

"It's really hard to say what might be causing this," said Manisha Gandhi, Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. "Premature delivery and premature birth is still a very unknown diagnosis as to what causes it which also makes it hard to prevent because we don't know what all the causes are."

While the U.S. sees an average premature birth rate of about 10 percent, Gandhi said they haven't noticed any differing trends at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women from Jan. to April.

"We're always looking to see what potential interventions and potential causes could be affecting this rate, and so the idea that there are some areas that have noticed this drop, and in some areas quite a large drop, it's exciting to think, 'OK maybe we can look into what may have changed in those areas to potentially get us closer to finding some additional reasons for why premature births occur and potential interventions that could be created to help make that change and decrease that rate everywhere,'" Gandhi said.

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