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Original article

Vol. 152 No. 1920 (2022)

Impact of SARS-CoV-2 on incidence, treatment and outcome of very preterm born infants in Switzerland: a retrospective, population-based cohort study

  • Mark Adams
  • Sven M. Schulzke
  • Bjarte Rogdo
  • Philipp Meyer
  • Jane McDougall
  • Martin Stocker
  • Juliane Schneider
  • Thomas Riedel
  • Riccardo Pfister
  • Dirk Bassler
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2022;152:w30174


AIMS OF THE STUDY: To assess whether the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 had an impact on incidence, treatment or major adverse short-term outcome of preterm-born infants in Switzerland.

METHODS: Retrospective cohort study of preterm infants born in 2020 based on two independent data sources from the Swiss Federal Statistics Office (FSO) and SwissNeoNet. Based on FSO data, we calculated the odds ratios for extremely preterm (22–27 weeks gestation), very preterm (28–31 weeks gestation), and late preterm (32–36 weeks gestation) births during the pandemic. Based on SwissNeoNet data of infants born between 22 and 31 weeks gestation, we compared infants born during the Swiss lockdown period in 2020 with infants born during the same period between 2015 and 2019, all infants of 2020 with all infants between 2015 and 2019 and infants born to mothers tested SARS-CoV-2 positive and negative. Possible associations with the pandemic were tested using logistic regression adjusted for case-mix. As a control, we compared births of 2019 with those of 2015–2018.

RESULTS: The FSO data revealed equivalent odds for extremely preterm births in 2020 (odds ratio [OR] 1.01, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.89–1.14), as well as somewhat lower odds ratios for very preterm (OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.82–1.00) and late preterm (OR 0.91, 95% CI 0.88–0.93) births in 2020. A comparison between 2019 and 2015–2018, however, revealed matching odds ratios rendering an association to the pandemic unlikely. In the SwissNeoNet data, 137 infants were born during lockdown in 2020 compared with 134 births per year during 2015–2019. When including all infants, 744 infants were compared to 845 births, respectively. The only difference observed in treatments and short term outcomes between 2020 and the reference years were a higher odds for respiratory distress syndrome (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.08–2.37) and provision of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.05–1.84).

CONCLUSIONS: Our Swiss population-based analysis did not identify the elsewhere reported association between the COVID-19 pandemic and a reduced preterm birth rate. However, we can confirm a possible link between the COVID-19 pandemic and higher odds of respiratory distress syndrome, possibly coupled with CPAP requirements. Further observation of potential effects of the pandemic on health and health care provision to newborns may however be indicated based on the literature available so far and that our data only covers the first 9 months of the current pandemic.


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