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 close 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.