Health care in pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic and pregnancy outcomes in six low-and-middle-income countries: Evidence from a prospective, observational registry of the global network for women's and children's health

Document Type



Community Health Sciences


Objective: On a population basis, we assessed medical care for pregnant women in specific geographic regions of six countries before and during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in relationship to pregnancy outcomes.
Design: Prospective, population-based study.
Setting: Communities in Kenya, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, India, and Guatemala.
Population: Pregnant women enrolled in the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health's Maternal and Newborn Health Registry METHODS: Pregnancy/delivery care services and pregnancy outcomes in the pre-COVID-19 time-period (March 2019-February 2020) were compared to the COVID-19 time-period (March 2020-February 2021).
Main outcome measures: Stillbirth, neonatal mortality, preterm birth, low birth weight, maternal mortality RESULTS: Across all sites, a small but statistically significant increase in home births occurred between the pre-COVID and COVID periods. (18.9% vs 20.3%, aRR 1.12 95% CI 1.05, 1.19). Also, a small but significant decrease in the mean number of antenatal care visits (4.1 - 4.0, p= <0.0001) was seen during the COVID-19 period. Of outcomes evaluated, overall, a small but significant decrease in low-birthweight in the COVID-19 period occurred (15.7% vs 14.6%, aRR 0.94 (0.89, 0.99), but we did not observe any significant differences in other outcomes. There was no change observed in maternal mortality or antenatal haemorrhage overall or at any of the sites.
Conclusions: Small but significant increases in home births and decreases in the ANC services were observed during the initial COVID-19 period; however, there was not an increase in the stillbirth, neonatal mortality, maternal mortality, low birth weight or preterm birth rates during the COVID-19 period as compared to the prior year. Further research should help elucidate the relationship between access to and use of pregnancy-related medical services and birth outcomes over an extended period.


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BJOG : an international journal of obstetrics and gynaecology