The worrying effects of the pandemic on small and sick newborn care

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the quality of care given to small and sick newborn babies in all regions of the world and threatening the implementation of life-saving interventions. Two publications support this argument and also point to far-reaching, sometimes extreme consequences of these effects on newborn care. The first paper by Minckas et al., published in late February, is a comparative risk analysis of neonatal deaths averted by Kangaroo Mother Care versus mortality due to COVID-19 infections, the second one, published in March, are a global survey and thematic analysis of healthcare providers’ voices and experiences. Both publications are raising concern as for various reasons, a policy of separating mothers from their newborns has been implemented in many hospitals. What both papers are also highlighting, is that this separation is not always medically required but used as a way to prevent coronavirus from spreading. Keeping the spread of the virus at bay also to protect the staff and the general public is an absolutely valid concern. However, according to the paper by Hugo et al., separation of mother and child does more harm than good because kangaroo Mother Care reduces infant mortality more than COVID infection threatens the lives of newborns. The Mayer et al. paper, on the other hand, points out that precautions are sometimes taken even when it is not clear whether mother or child are infected.

Hence, the findings in both sources very clearly support zero separation and promote parental closeness also during the pandemic situation. The publications also highlight that separation policies are a global burden and that outcomes of all babies will improve from close contact with their parents.

© UNICEF/UNI341033/Panjwani

Aruna Patel (28) giving Kangaroo Mother Care to new born child. Mothers of new borns are trained and educated on benifits of KMC by hospotal staff. Location: Baria District Hospital, Baria, Gujarat

Full access to the publications is available via the links below:

Rao SPN, Minckas N, Medvedev MM on behalf of the COVID-19 Small and Sick Newborn Care Collaborative Group, et alSmall and sick newborn care during the COVID-19 pandemic: global survey and thematic analysis of healthcare providers’ voices and experiences, BMJ Global Health 2021; 6:e004347,

N. Minckas et al., Preterm care during the COVID-19 pandemic: A comparative risk analysis of neonatal deaths averted by kangaroo mother care versus mortality due to SARS-CoV-2 infection, EClinicalMedicine (2021), eclinm.2021.100733  

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