Background The COVID-19 pandemic led to regional or nationwide lockdowns as part of risk mitigation measurements in many countries worldwide. Recent studies suggest an unexpected and unprecedented decrease in preterm births during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns in the first half of 2020. The objective of the current study was to assess the effects of the two months of the initial national COVID-19 lockdown period on the incidence of very and extremely preterm birth in the Netherlands, stratified by either spontaneous or iatrogenic onset of delivery, in both singleton and multiple pregnancies. Methods Retrospective cohort study using data from all 10 perinatal centers in the Netherlands on very and extremely preterm births during the initial COVID-19 lockdown from March 15 to May 15, 2020. Incidences of very and extremely preterm birth were calculated using an estimate of the total number of births in the Netherlands in this period. As reference, we used data from the corresponding calendar period in 2015-2018 from the national perinatal registry (Perined). We differentiated between spontaneous versus iatrogenic onset of delivery and between singleton versus multiple pregnancies. Results The incidence of total preterm birth < 32 weeks in singleton pregnancies was 6.1 parts per thousand in the study period in 2020 versus 6.5 parts per thousand in the corresponding period in 2015-2018. The decrease in preterm births in singletons was solely due to a significant decrease in iatrogenic preterm births, both < 32 weeks (OR 0.71; 95%CI 0.53 to 0.95) and < 28 weeks (OR 0.53; 95%CI 0.29 to 0.97). For multiple pregnancies, an increase in preterm births < 28 weeks was observed (OR 2.43; 95%CI 1.35 to 4.39). Conclusion This study shows a decrease in iatrogenic preterm births during the initial COVID-19-related lockdown in the Netherlands in singletons. Future studies should focus on the mechanism of action of lockdown measures and reduction of preterm birth and the effects of perinatal outcome.
- Preterm birth