Leading health experts have alerted that the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the incidence of preterm birth among pregnant women in the country. The viral pandemic, they said, has also further exacerbated the infant mortality rate in Nigeria.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an exclusive interview, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Bright Airhumwunde, says that, aside from placing a whole lot of burden on the society in terms of caring for children who are very young, preterm birth is the leading cause of under-five mortality worldwide and the leading cause of death of under-five children in Nigeria.
Dr. Airhumwunde who is a Minimal Access Surgeon and Fertility Specialist at Reddington Multi Specialist Hospital, Ikeja, stated that the recent increase in preterm delivery could be associated with increasing multiple pregnancies, resulting from IVF and late marriages, adding that women who were older than 35 years were at risk of preterm delivery.
He said a lot of factors, including hypertension and diabetes, could also predispose women to preterm delivery.
He, however, revealed that COVID-19 was increasing preterm deliveries and miscarriages among pregnant women in Nigeria, based on available scientific evidence.
“Though COVID-19 is a novel disease, we know that in the last couple of months, recent data have shown that there is an increase in the number of preterm deliveries.
“The researches are there to prove it. Though the number of studies is small, they are coming and they are telling us that there is an increase in the number of preterm deliveries worldwide.
“Scanty reports in Nigeria also show that there is an increase in preterm births and pregnant women are having miscarriages owing to the impact of COVID-19.See Also
“This is probably due to the increasing level of stress and fear of visiting the hospital for delivery. So, we have data to suggest that Nigeria has an increase in preterm deliveries and miscarriages presently.”
The maternal health expert affirmed that COVID-19 would worsen rate of infant deaths in Nigeria, lamenting that maternal and child health was not on the front burner of the country’s health policy.
Dr. Airhumwunde, however, stated that even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, figures of preterm deliveries in Nigeria were higher compared to other countries.
According to him, worldwide, the rate of preterm delivery is about 10 per cent while in Sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria in particular, the rate is actually higher, noting that the quoted figures range between 15 to 20 per cent.