No change in preterm birth or stillbirth in Philadelphia during pandemic

Challenging earlier reports, a CHOP-Penn Medicine study employed a rigorous analysis of a diverse, urban pregnancy cohort and found no significant changes.

Despite early reports suggesting a decline in preterm births during the COVID-19 pandemic period, an analysis by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Perelman School of Medicine has found no change in preterm births or stillbirths at two Philadelphia hospitals in the first four months of the pandemic. The findings, published in JAMA, resulted from the examination of an ongoing, racially diverse pregnancy cohort that assesses both spontaneous and medically indicated preterm birth.

Premature baby in an incubator in the ICU.

“Preterm birth is highly complex, with a diverse set of presentations and unknown causes,” says Heather H. Burris, an attending physician in CHOP’s Division of Neonatology and senior author of the study. “Because we have two independent reviewers assessing every preterm birth at two Penn Medicine hospitals, we were able to complete a rigorous analysis of multiple types of preterm birth for the first four months of the pandemic and compare that data to the same period in previous years.”

The cohort, known as GeoBirth, includes more than 100,000 births at two Penn Medicine hospitals in Philadelphia since 2008. Each preterm birth, characterized as any birth occurring before 37 weeks’ gestation, is manually classified by two independent, blinded reviewers as either a spontaneous preterm birth or a medically indicated preterm birth. The former includes preterm labor or early rupture of the membranes, and the latter includes conditions that necessitate an early delivery for the health of the mother or baby, such as preeclampsia or intrauterine growth restriction.

This story is by Alex Gardner. Read more at Penn Medicine News.