Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Very Preterm Birth and Preterm Birth before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Importance: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may exacerbate existing racial/ethnic inequities in preterm birth. Objective: To assess whether racial/ethnic disparities in very preterm birth (VPTB) and preterm birth (PTB) increased during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study included 8026 Black, Latina, and White women who gave birth during the study period. A difference-in-differences (DID) analysis of Black vs White disparities in VPTB or PTB in a pandemic cohort was compared with a prepandemic cohort by using electronic medical records obtained from 2 hospitals in New York City. Exposures: Women who delivered from March 28 to July 31, 2020, were considered the pandemic cohort, and women who delivered from March 28 to July 31, 2019, were considered the prepandemic cohort. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests for the presence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) were performed using samples obtained via nasopharyngeal swab at the time of admission. Main Outcomes and Measures: Clinical estimates of gestational age were used to calculate VPTB (<32 weeks) and PTB (<37 weeks). Log binomial regression was performed to estimate Black vs White risk differences, pandemic cohort vs prepandemic cohort risk difference, and an interaction term representing the DID estimator. Covariate-adjusted models included age, insurance, prepregnancy body mass index, and parity. Results: Of 3834 women in the pandemic cohort, 492 (12.8%) self-identified as Black, 678 (17.7%) as Latina, 2012 (52.5%) as White, 408 (10.6%) as Asian, and 244 (6.4%) as other or unspecified race/ethnicity, with approximately half the women 25 to 34 years of age. The prepandemic cohort comprised 4192 women with similar sociodemographic characteristics. In the prepandemic cohort, VPTB risk was 4.4% (20 of 451) and PTB risk was 14.4% (65 of 451) among Black infants compared with 0.8% (17 of 2188) VPTB risk and 7.1% (156 of 2188) PTB risk among White infants. In the pandemic cohort, VPTB risk was 4.3% (21 of 491) and PTB risk was 13.2% (65 of 491) among Black infants compared with 0.5% (10 of 1994) VPTB risk and 7.0% (240 of 1994) PTB risk among White infants. The DID estimators indicated that no increase in Black vs White disparities were found (DID estimator for VPTB, 0.1 additional cases per 100 [95% CI, -2.5 to 2.8]; DID estimator for PTB, 1.1 fewer case per 100 [95% CI, -5.8 to 3.6]). The results were comparable in covariate-adjusted models when limiting the population to women who tested negative for SARS-CoV-2. No change was detected in Latina vs White PTB disparities during the pandemic. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study of women who gave birth in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic, no evidence was found for increased racial/ethnic disparities in PTB, among women who tested positive or tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere211816
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number3
StatePublished - 17 Mar 2021


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