Doctors fear a rise in stillbirths and babies with impaired growth because pregnant women were too scared to seek help during the pandemic.
At a Royal Society of Medicine webinar on pregnancy and Covid, medics expressed concern that women in need of urgent attention had kept away from maternity services, for fear of catching the infection.
In other cases, those with worrying symptoms which could mean their baby was at risk may have stayed away because they feared putting pressure on services, doctors said.
Dr Maggie Blott, head of obstetrics at the Royal Free London Foundation trust, said: “A lot of the work that we do is is prevention, and a lot of women that we see, turn up for hospital as an emergency – have concerns around abdominal pain, reduced foetal movements, all sorts of things.”
“During the peak of the pandemic that group of women completely disappeared. We went for days seeing only single figures of women turning up with reduced foetal movements or bleeding in pregnancy or indeed in early pregnancy rates of early miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy – all of those numbers fell,” she said.
Dr Blott said she was fearful that the lack of checks during pregnancy could later be seen in increased stillbirths and harm to babies.
“It’s a concern .. that women are keeping themselves away from the hospital because of concerns and we don’t yet know whether there will be long-term consequences – of an increase in stillbirth or an increase in growth restricted babies. That’s something we’re going to need to watch very carefully,” she said.
Dr Patrick O’ Brien, Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaeoclogists said research was underway, following “anecdotal reports of women being reluctant to come to hospital with reduced foetal movements because they’re afraid of catching infection in the hospital or because they don’t want to overburden the system that they know is already stretched.”