Impact of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on pregnancy duration and outcome in Melbourne, Australia

D. L. Rolnik*, A. Matheson, Y. Liu, S. Chu, C. Mcgannon, B. Mulcahy, A. Malhotra, K. R. Palmer, R. J. Hodges, B. W. Mol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate the effect of restriction measures implemented to mitigate severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on pregnancy duration and outcome. Methods: A before-and-after study was conducted with cohort sampling in three maternity hospitals in Melbourne, Australia, including women who were pregnant when restriction measures were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic (estimated conception date between 1 November 2019 and 29 February 2020) and women who were pregnant before the restrictions (estimated conception date between 1 November 2018 and 28 February 2019). The primary outcome was delivery before 34 weeks' gestation or stillbirth. The main secondary outcome was a composite of adverse perinatal outcomes. Pregnancy outcomes were compared between women exposed to restriction measures and unexposed controls using the χ-square test and modified Poisson regression models, and duration of pregnancy was compared between the groups using survival analysis. Results: In total, 3150 women who were exposed to restriction measures during pregnancy and 3175 unexposed controls were included. Preterm birth before 34 weeks or stillbirth occurred in 95 (3.0%) exposed pregnancies and in 130 (4.1%) controls (risk ratio (RR), 0.74 (95% CI, 0.57–0.96); P = 0.021). Preterm birth before 34 weeks occurred in 2.4% of women in the exposed group and in 3.4% of women in the control group (RR, 0.71 (95% CI, 0.53–0.95); P = 0.022), without evidence of an increase in the rate of stillbirth in the exposed group (0.7% vs 0.9%; RR, 0.83 (95% CI, 0.48–1.44); P = 0.515). Competing-risks regression analysis showed that the effect of the restriction measures on spontaneous preterm birth was stronger and started earlier (subdistribution hazard ratio (HR), 0.81 (95% CI, 0.64–1.03); P = 0.087) than the effect on medically indicated preterm birth (subdistribution HR, 0.89 (95% CI, 0.70–1.12); P = 0.305). The effect was stronger in women with a previous preterm birth (RR, 0.42 (95% CI, 0.21–0.82); P = 0.008) than in parous women without a previous preterm birth (RR, 0.93 (95% CI, 0.63–1.38); P = 0.714) (P for interaction = 0.044). Composite adverse perinatal outcome was less frequent in the exposed group than in controls (all women: 2.1% vs 2.9%; RR, 0.73 (95% CI, 0.54–0.99); P = 0.042); women with a previous preterm birth: 4.5% vs 8.4%; RR, 0.54 (95% CI, 0.25–1.18); P = 0.116). Conclusions: Restriction measures implemented to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with a reduced rate of preterm birth before 34 weeks. This reduction was mainly due to a lower rate of spontaneous prematurity. The effect was more substantial in women with a previous preterm birth and was not associated with an increased stillbirth rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-687
Number of pages11
JournalUltrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number5
Early online date1 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Brittany Zivanovic, Diane Quach, Harry Hughes, Holly Giles‐Clark, James Kemper, Jane Donaldson, Krystle Chong, Madeleine Jones, Tracey Zakazakaarcher and Yee Mak for their assistance with data collection for this study. K.R.P. has received research funding from GlaxoSmithKline and been a member of a Janssen advisory board. B.W.M. is supported by a NHMRC Investigator grant (GNT1176437), B.W.M. reports consultancy for Guerbet. B.M.W. has received research funding from Guerbet and Merck. B.W.M. has been a member of the ObsEva advisory board and holds Stock options for ObsEva.

Data Availability Statement

Individual participant data and the statistical analysis code that underlie the results reported in this article are available upon request to the authors.


  • coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • lockdown
  • pandemic
  • pregnancy duration
  • pregnancy outcome
  • preterm birth
  • restrictions


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