Rates of stillbirth and maternal deaths rose by around a third during the COVID-19 pandemic, with pregnancy outcomes getting worse overall for both babies and mothers worldwide
Lockdowns, disruption to maternity services, and fear of attending healthcare facilities all added to pregnancy risks, leading to generally worse results for women and infants.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on healthcare systems,” said professor Asma Khalil, who co-led the research at St George’s University of London. “The disruption caused … has led to the avoidable deaths of both mothers and babies, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”
It also found significant harm to maternal mental health with an increase in postnatal depression, maternal anxiety, or both.
Jogender Kumar of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in India said they highlighted worrying disparities in healthcare.
"In resource-poor countries, even under normal circumstances, it is a challenge to provide adequate coverage for antenatal checkups, obstetric emergencies, universal institutional deliveries and respectful maternity care," he wrote in a commentary. "The COVID-19 pandemic has widened this gap."