COV-Mat: The impact of COVID-19 national lockdowns on maternal and neonatal health outcomes (pregnancy and birth outcomes) in England and Wales: a mixed-methods study.
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected pregnancy and birth in many ways across the UK. During the pandemic, services had to adapt rapidly, and daily life changed significantly as national lockdowns became enforced. Lockdowns are defined here as the home confinement policies imposed by governments in the UK from the 23rd of March 2020. Research from around the world is showing that lockdowns impacted pregnancy and birth outcomes, for example in some high-income countries premature birth rates decreased during lockdowns.
It also appears that birth and pregnancy health inequalities between ethnicity groups and deprivation levels, were impacted by lockdowns. The changes to birth outcomes over lockdowns varied according to ethnicity group and deprivation levels, but the variations in changes of outcomes are inconsistent and incompletely understood; they need further investigation to explore lockdown’s potentially unequal impact on women and new-borns.
Pregnancy and birth outcomes are affected by lifestyle and socio-environmental factors, such as stress, access to care, and social support. National lockdowns greatly influence these social and lifestyle factors. Researchers have suggested that lockdowns can provide a unique ‘natural experiment’, in which social environment and lifestyle changed for all women in the UK, and the impact of these changes on pregnancy and birth can be analysed. Lockdowns, and the natural experiment they provide, require further exploration to understand how changes in lifestyle and social environmental could contribute to changes in poor pregnancy and birth outcomes. My project proposes a mixed methods study to understand the relationship between lockdowns and maternal and neonatal health in England and Wales, with investigation into the potential mechanisms behind reductions in adverse outcomes.
Aim: We want to understand how lockdowns impacted mums and new-born babies’ health in England and Wales.
We will explore the aim through the following objectives:
Investigate whether maternal and neonatal outcomes changed in England and Wales during the Covid-19 lockdowns, using routinely collected NHS data sets.
Assess if outcomes differed according to population characteristics such as deprivation and ethnicity; identify which women were most vulnerable to adverse outcomes.
Identify which areas in England and Wales experienced the greatest changes in outcomes during lockdowns compared to pre-pandemic, and which experienced the least.
Ascertain the lived experiences and perspectives of women who were pregnant during lockdowns, and health practitioners who worked in maternity related services over lockdowns, both in areas where outcomes changed, and in control sites where outcomes did not change.
Details of participating in the study:
Each participant will need to do a 1-hour long interview, either in person or via Zoom/Teams.
Participants will be asked if they mind having the interview filmed or recorded, they may decline being filmed/recorded, and are allowed to take part and be interviewed without being recorded/filmed.
Interviews will be an open discussion about the experience of pregnancy and birth during lockdowns.
How lockdown changed your daily life?
What caused you stress during lockdown compared to before lockdowns?
What were your main concerns about pregnancy and birth in lockdown?
What have been some lasting changes in your life since the pandemic began?
Payments include: a £25 pound voucher (eligible for use in any shops) per interview.
Following the interview participants may be asked for a follow up phone call to ask clarification questions.
Participants will be kept updated with the progress of the study.
Start date: October 2021
Study duration: 3 years
Interview participant recruitment target: 15 - 20
Participating sites: Barts Health NHS Trust & Queen Mary University London
Funding: This study is funded by the National Institute of Health Research: School for Primary Care Research.
Chief Investigator: Stamatina Iliodromiti
PhD researcher: Iona Hindes
For more information please contact: