The Born in Wales Study, led by researchers at the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research, looked at the impact of the Pandemic on birth outcomes and explored the experiences of expectant mothers.
Researchers used data from SAIL Databank and performed a comparative study. The SAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) Databank routinely collects population and health data – providing anonymized person-based data for research and analysis.
A two-part study
The team assessed the population-level birth outcomes in Wales, such as stillbirths, prematurity, birth weight, and cesarean section births – during 2016-2019, the pre-pandemic period, and during 2020.
The study comprised two parts: analysis of data from SAIL on pregnancy and birth outcomes in Wales, before and during the Pandemic, and an online survey on the expectant mothers’ experiences.
Findings from the data
- There was no significant difference between annual outcomes, including gestation (the period between conception and birth) and birth weight, stillbirths, and Caesarean sections for infants born in 2020 compared to 2016-2019.
- In the first lockdown, there was an increase in late-term births (greater than 42 weeks from gestation). In the second lockdown, there was a decrease in moderate to late preterm births (32-36 weeks gestation).
- Fewer babies were born in 2020 compared to 2016-2019.
- All babies received their immunisations in 2020, but there were minor delays in the timings of vaccines.
Findings from the survey
- The Pandemic negatively impacted the mental health of 71% of survey respondents, who reported anxiety, stress, and loneliness; this was associated with attending scans without their partner, giving birth alone, and minimal contact with midwives.
Hope Jones, Researcher at Born in Wales, said:
“Our findings show that the Pandemic had a significant negative impact on expectant mothers’ mental health, with the majority reporting anxiety, loneliness, and fear, which have a negative emotional effect on pregnant women.
However, the data indicated that babies born during the COVID-19 display no disadvantage or adverse outcomes compared to babies born before the Pandemic regarding birth weight and whether they were born at term.”
Professor Sinead Brophy, Director of the Centre for Population Health, added:
“Health, wellbeing and family life during pregnancy and in the first year of life, can impact on future health and wellbeing of our children. Therefore, supporting good parental health and positive development during the first year and, importantly, through the Pandemic is crucial.
As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to be a health risk, our research will continue to explore and inform decision-makers and healthcare workers on how to best support women and families.”
Born in Wales is an ongoing study that looks to inform health, education and wellbeing improvements for children in Wales. The research team will look to carry out a follow-up analysis in the first year of life to examine if stress in pregnancy and ongoing pandemic changes have longer-term consequences for the infant and their family.
The Born in Wales study is looking to engage with expectant mums and partners – to access the survey and find out more, visit: https://ncphwr.org.uk/portfolio/born-in-wales/
The National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research is funded by the Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales.