Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Stillbirths in Canada and the United States

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2024 Apr;46(4):102338. doi: 10.1016/j.jogc.2023.102338. Epub 2023 Dec 30.

Abstract

Objective: There is uncertainty regarding the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on population rates of stillbirth. We quantified pandemic-associated changes in stillbirth rates in Canada and the United States.

Methods: We carried out a retrospective study that included all live births and stillbirths in Canada and the United States from 2015 to 2020. The primary analysis was based on all stillbirths and live births at ≥20 weeks gestation. Stillbirth rates were analyzed by month, with March 2020 considered to be the month of pandemic onset. Interrupted time series analyses were used to determine pandemic effects.

Results: The study population included 18 475 stillbirths and 2 244 240 live births in Canada and 134 883 stillbirths and 22 963 356 live births in the United States (8.2 and 5.8 stillbirths per 1000 total births, respectively). In Canada, pandemic onset was associated with an increase in stillbirths at ≥20 weeks gestation of 1.01 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.56-1.46) per 1000 total births and an increase in stillbirths at ≥28 weeks gestation of 0.35 (95% CI 0.16-0.54) per 1000 total births. In the United States, pandemic onset was associated with an increase in stillbirths at ≥20 weeks gestation of 0.48 (95% CI 0.22-0.75) per 1000 total births and an increase in stillbirths at ≥28 weeks gestation of 0.22 (95% CI 0.12-0.32) per 1000 total births. The increase in stillbirths at pandemic onset returned to pre-pandemic levels in subsequent months.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic's onset was associated with a transitory increase in stillbirth rates in Canada and the United States.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic; Canada; United States; obstetric services; stillbirth.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stillbirth* / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology