Exploring modifiable risk factors for premature birth in the context of COVID-19 mitigation measures: A discussion paper
During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents with sick or premature babies have faced challenges following admission to a neonatal unit due to the imposed lock-down restrictions on social contact, hospital visitation and the wearing of personal protective equipment. The negative short-term impact on neonatal care in relation to the prevention of proximity, contact and bonding between parents and babies is potentially significant. However, an interesting finding has been reported of a reduction in premature birth admissions to the neonatal intensive care unit during the pandemic, raising important questions. Why was this? Was it related to the effect of the modifiable risk-factors for premature birth? This discussion paper focuses on an exploration of these factors in the light of the potential impact of COVID-19 restrictions on neonatal care. After contextualising both the effect of premature birth and the pandemic on neonatal and parental short-term outcomes, the discussion turns to the modifiable risk-factors for premature birth and makes recommendations relevant to the education, advice and care given to expectant mothers.