International Perinatal Outcomes in the Pandemic (iPOP) Study (DP2 – iPOP)

What is Driver Project 2?

Driver project 2 focuses on the International Perinatal Outcomes in the Pandemic (iPOP) Study, a study exploring the impact of the pandemic lockdown on preterm births worldwide, including variances across countries.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death worldwide, but its causes are largely unknown.  During the early COVID-19 lockdowns, dramatic reductions in preterm births (up to 90% in Denmark) and very low birth weight (70% in Ireland) have been reported.

Lockdowns have dramatically impacted maternal workload, access to healthcare, hygiene practices, and air pollution – all of which could impact preterm birth rates and might affect pregnant women differently in different regions of the world.

The iPOP Study will examine these trends globally as the pandemic continues, to understand the underlying cause(s).


What will it achieve?

The global iPOP study will investigate the impact of pandemic lockdowns on preterm birth and stillbirth, and assess the underlying causative factors.

The study is asking:

  1. Is this (really) happening everywhere? – We will assess preterm birth and stillbirth rates around the world to determine if changes during the pandemic lockdown are real and consistent globally, or show regional variation.
  2. What is the reason? – We will determine if regional changes in preterm birth or stillbirth during lockdown are related to regional differences in the stringency or type of lockdown measures, maternity leave policies, maternity care practices, or air pollution.
  3. Are all pregnancies affected? – We will explore whether these relationships depend on a mother’s age, race, socioeconomic status, healthcare usage, pre-existing health conditions or pregnancy complications.

Whether the pandemic is worsening or unexpectedly improving newborn health, our research will provide critical new information to shape prenatal care strategies throughout (and well beyond) the pandemic.


Where are we now?

The iPOP Study currently involves over 100 researchers in more than 40 countries, including 22 lower- and middle- income countries (LMICs), with access to data on 2.4m births.  The team working on the study includes obstetricians, neonatologists, epidemiologists, public health researchers, environmental scientists and policymakers.

Together, they will leverage the most disruptive and widespread changes of our lifetime (the COVID-19 pandemic) to make rapid discoveries about preterm birth.

The study protocol is now available online via Wellcome Open Research: The international Perinatal Outcomes in the Pandemic (iPOP) study: protocol  [version 1; peer review: awaiting peer review].

If you work in a setting with access to perinatal data, especially around pre-term birth and would like to support this study, please contact us.