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How lockdown may actually be helping with pregnancies

Premature births are difficult for mothers and for their entire families. Rachel Toomey’s son Adam was born 11 weeks early. “He was 2 lb 9 oz so he was super super little,” Toomey said.

That experience, she says, was hard for everyone. “He was in the NICU there for 73 days before I could drive him home, and he was on several machines and things. He was on oxygen for 6 months.”

This all happened six years ago, prior to this global pandemic.

I can’t even imagine on top of everything with the preemie baby – having to deal with COVID on top of that,” said Toomey who is now a March of Dimes Ambassador. 

However, new research is showing the pandemic is actually lowering premature birth rates. Doctors think one reason for the lowering premature birth rate could be reduced stress levels.

“We do believe that both existing medical conditions, as well as maternal stress during pregnancy, play a significant role in preterm birth,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Senior Vice President and Cheif Medical Officer for March of Dimes.

However, that doesn’t mean all stress has gone away for families. “There have been some stresses that we’re not dealing with right now for many – like going to work,” said Dr. Gupta.

And for those that are stressed, Dr. Gupta believes they must find a way to relax.

“We have to find small victories, small joys in our lives right now to make sure that we keep that maternal stress down to a minimum,” he said.

Celebrating small victories is something Toomey knows all too well.

Just even small wins – like, ‘yay! he can wear clothes now,” she said. 

Lee Health says they’ve seen a slight decrease in premature births. NCH says they haven’t noticed a difference in their numbers. Researchers also warn that a positive COVID test in pregnant women could make them more susceptible to have a premature birth.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Drew Hill
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