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1.  Maternal Overweight and Obesity and Risks of Severe Birth-Asphyxia-Related Complications in Term Infants: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001648.
Martina Persson and colleagues use a Swedish national database to investigate the association between maternal body mass index in early pregnancy and severe asphyxia-related outcomes in infants delivered at term.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Maternal overweight and obesity increase risks of pregnancy and delivery complications and neonatal mortality, but the mechanisms are unclear. The objective of the study was to investigate associations between maternal body mass index (BMI) in early pregnancy and severe asphyxia-related outcomes in infants delivered at term (≥37 weeks).
Methods and Findings
A nation-wide Swedish cohort study based on data from the Medical Birth Register included all live singleton term births in Sweden between 1992 and 2010. Logistic regression analyses were used to obtain odds ratios (ORs) with 95% CIs for Apgar scores between 0 and 3 at 5 and 10 minutes, meconium aspiration syndrome, and neonatal seizures, adjusted for maternal height, maternal age, parity, mother's smoking habits, education, country of birth, and year of infant birth. Among 1,764,403 term births, 86% had data on early pregnancy BMI and Apgar scores. There were 1,380 infants who had Apgar score 0–3 at 5 minutes (absolute risk  = 0.8 per 1,000) and 894 had Apgar score 0–3 at 10 minutes (absolute risk  = 0.5 per 1,000). Compared with infants of mothers with normal BMI (18.5–24.9), the adjusted ORs (95% CI) for Apgar scores 0–3 at 10 minutes were as follows: BMI 25–29.9: 1.32 (1.10–1.58); BMI 30–34.9: 1.57 (1.20–2.07); BMI 35–39.9: 1.80 (1.15–2.82); and BMI ≥40: 3.41 (1.91–6.09). The ORs for Apgar scores 0–3 at 5 minutes, meconium aspiration, and neonatal seizures increased similarly with maternal BMI. A study limitation was lack of data on effects of obstetric interventions and neonatal resuscitation efforts.
Conclusion
Risks of severe asphyxia-related outcomes in term infants increase with maternal overweight and obesity. Given the high prevalence of the exposure and the severity of the outcomes studied, the results are of potential public health relevance and should be confirmed in other populations. Prevention of overweight and obesity in women of reproductive age is important to improve perinatal health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Economic, technologic, and lifestyle changes over the past 30 years have created an abundance of cheap, accessible, high-calorie food. Combined with fewer demands for physical activity, this situation has lead to increasing body mass throughout most of the world. Consequently, being overweight or obese is much more common in many high-income and low-and middle-income countries compared to 1980. Worldwide estimates put the percentage of overweight or obese adults as increasing by over 10%, between 1980 and 2008.
As being overweight becomes a global epidemic, its prevalence in women of reproductive age has also increased. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese are a cause for concern because of the possible associated health risks to both the infant and mother. Research is necessary to more clearly define these risks.
Why Was This Study Done?
In this study, the researchers investigated the complications associated with excess maternal weight that could hinder an infant from obtaining enough oxygen during delivery (neonatal asphyxia). All fetuses experience a loss of oxygen during contractions, however, a prolonged loss of oxygen can impact an infant's long-term development. To explore this risk, the researchers relied on a universal scoring system known as the Apgar score. An Apgar score is routinely recorded at one, five, and ten minutes after birth and is calculated from an assessment of heart rate, respiratory effort, and color, along with reflexes and muscle tone. An oxygen deficit during delivery will have an impact on the score. A normal score is in the range of 7–10. Body mass index (BMI) a calculation that uses height and weight, was used to assess the weight status (i.e., normal, overweight, obese) of the mother during pregnancy.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Using the Swedish medical birth registry (a database including nearly all the births occurring in Sweden since 1973) the researchers selected records for single births that took place between 1992 to 2010. The registry also incorporates prenatal care data and researchers further selected for records that included weight and height measurement taken during the first prenatal visit. BMI was calculated using the weight and height measurement. Based on BMI ranges that define weight groups as normal, overweight, and obesity grades I, II, and III, the researchers analyzed and compared the number of low Apgar scoring infants (Apgar 0–3) in each group. Mothers with normal weight gave birth to the majority of infants with Apgar 0–3. In comparison the proportion of low Apgar scores were greater in babies of overweight and obese mothers. The researchers found that the rates of low Apgar scores increased with maternal BMI: the authors found that rates of low Apgar score at 5 minutes increased from 0.4 per 1,000 among infants of underweight women (BMI <18.5) to 2.4 per 1,000 among infants of women with obesity class III (BMI ≥40). Furthermore, overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9) was associated with a 55% increased risk of low Apgar scores at 5 minutes; obesity grade I (BMI 30–34.9) and grade II (BMI 35.0–39.9) with an almost 2-fold and a more than 2-fold increased risk, respectively; and obesity grade ΙΙΙ (BMI ≥40.0) with a more than 3-fold increase in risk. Finally, maternal overweight and obesity also increase the risks for seizures and meconium aspiration in the neonate.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the risk of experiencing an oxygen deficit increases for the babies of women who are overweight or obese. Given the high prevalence of overweight and obesity in many countries worldwide, these findings are important and suggest that preventing women of reproductive age from becoming overweight or obese is therefore important to the health of their children.
A limitation of this study is the lack of data on the effects of clinical interventions and neonatal resuscitation efforts that may have been performed at the time of birth. Also Apgar scoring is based on five variables and a low score is not the most direct way to determine if the infant has experienced an oxygen deficit. However, these findings suggest that early detection of perinatal asphyxia is particularly relevant among infants of overweight and obese women although more studies are necessary to confirm the results in other populations.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001648.
The US National Institutes of Health explains and calculates body mass index
The NIH also defines the Apgar scoring system
The United Kingdom's National Health Service has information for pregnant woman who are overweight
The UK-based Overseas Development Institute discusses how changes in diet have led to a worldwide health crisis in its “Future Diets” publication
Information about the Swedish health care system is available
Information in English is available from the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001648
PMCID: PMC4028185  PMID: 24845218
2.  Primary Prevention of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Large-for-Gestational-Age Newborns by Lifestyle Counseling: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1001036.
In a cluster-randomized trial, Riitta Luoto and colleagues find that counseling on diet and activity can reduce the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), but fail to find an effect on GDM.
Background
Our objective was to examine whether gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or newborns' high birthweight can be prevented by lifestyle counseling in pregnant women at high risk of GDM.
Method and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial, the NELLI study, in 14 municipalities in Finland, where 2,271 women were screened by oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) at 8–12 wk gestation. Euglycemic (n = 399) women with at least one GDM risk factor (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 kg/m2, glucose intolerance or newborn's macrosomia (≥4,500 g) in any earlier pregnancy, family history of diabetes, age ≥40 y) were included. The intervention included individual intensified counseling on physical activity and diet and weight gain at five antenatal visits. Primary outcomes were incidence of GDM as assessed by OGTT (maternal outcome) and newborns' birthweight adjusted for gestational age (neonatal outcome). Secondary outcomes were maternal weight gain and the need for insulin treatment during pregnancy. Adherence to the intervention was evaluated on the basis of changes in physical activity (weekly metabolic equivalent task (MET) minutes) and diet (intake of total fat, saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, saccharose, and fiber). Multilevel analyses took into account cluster, maternity clinic, and nurse level influences in addition to age, education, parity, and prepregnancy BMI. 15.8% (34/216) of women in the intervention group and 12.4% (22/179) in the usual care group developed GDM (absolute effect size 1.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.71–2.62, p = 0.36). Neonatal birthweight was lower in the intervention than in the usual care group (absolute effect size −133 g, 95% CI −231 to −35, p = 0.008) as was proportion of large-for-gestational-age (LGA) newborns (26/216, 12.1% versus 34/179, 19.7%, p = 0.042). Women in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber (adjusted coefficient 1.83, 95% CI 0.30–3.25, p = 0.023) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient 0.37, 95% CI 0.16–0.57, p<0.001), decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient −0.63, 95% CI −1.12 to −0.15, p = 0.01) and intake of saccharose (adjusted coefficient −0.83, 95% CI −1.55 to −0.11, p  =  0.023), and had a tendency to a smaller decrease in MET minutes/week for at least moderate intensity activity (adjusted coefficient 91, 95% CI −37 to 219, p = 0.17) than women in the usual care group. In subgroup analysis, adherent women in the intervention group (n = 55/229) had decreased risk of GDM (27.3% versus 33.0%, p = 0.43) and LGA newborns (7.3% versus 19.5%, p = 0.03) compared to women in the usual care group.
Conclusions
The intervention was effective in controlling birthweight of the newborns, but failed to have an effect on maternal GDM.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33885819
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone that the pancreas releases when blood-sugar levels rise after meals. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs and, if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops. Risk factors for GDM, which occurs in 2%–14% of pregnant women, include a high body-mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or low physical activity during pregnancy, high dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats, glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes) or the birth of a large baby in a previous pregnancy, and a family history of diabetes. GDM is associated with an increased rate of cesarean sections, induced deliveries, birth complications, and large-for-gestational-age (LGA) babies (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). GDM, which can often be controlled by diet and exercise, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases a woman's subsequent risk of developing diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although lifestyle changes can be used to control GDM, it is not known whether similar changes can prevent GDM developing (“primary prevention”). In this cluster-randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate whether individual intensified counseling on physical activity, diet, and weight gain integrated into routine maternity care visits can prevent the development of GDM and the occurrence of LGA babies among newborns. In a cluster-randomized controlled trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions, and the outcomes in different “clusters” are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a municipality in the Pirkanmaa region of Finland.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 399 women, each of whom had a normal blood glucose level at 8–12 weeks gestation but at least one risk factor for GDM. Women in the intervention municipalities received intensified counseling on physical activity at 8–12 weeks' gestation, dietary counseling at 16–18 weeks' gestation, and further physical activity and dietary counseling at each subsequent antenatal visits. Women in the control municipalities received some dietary but little physical activity counseling as part of their usual care. 23.3% and 20.2% of women in the intervention and usual care groups, respectively, developed GDM, a nonstatistically significant difference (that is, a difference that could have occurred by chance). However, the average birthweight and the proportion of LGA babies were both significantly lower in the intervention group than in the usual care group. Food frequency questionnaires completed by the women indicated that, on average, those in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids and decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids and sucrose as instructed during counseling, The amount of moderate physical activity also tended to decrease less as pregnancy proceeded in the intervention group than in usual care group. Finally, compared to the usual care group, significantly fewer of the 24% of women in the intervention group who actually met dietary and physical activity targets (“adherent” women) developed GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intensified counseling on diet and physical activity is effective in controlling the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing GDM and encourages at least some of them to alter their lifestyle. However, the findings fail to show that the intervention reduces the risk of GDM because of the limited power of the study. The power of a study—the probability that it will achieve a statistically significant result—depends on the study's size and on the likely effect size of the intervention. Before starting this study, the researchers calculated that they would need 420 participants to see a statistically significant difference between the groups if their intervention reduced GDM incidence by 40%. This estimated effect size was probably optimistic and therefore the study lacked power. Nevertheless, the analyses performed among adherent women suggest that lifestyle changes might be a way to prevent GDM and so larger studies should now be undertaken to test this potential primary prevention intervention.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on diabetes and on gestational diabetes; MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
More information on this trial of primary prevention of GDM is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036
PMCID: PMC3096610  PMID: 21610860
3.  Factors Affecting the Delivery, Access, and Use of Interventions to Prevent Malaria in Pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001488.
Jenny Hill and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies to explore the factors that affect the delivery, access, and use of interventions to prevent malaria in pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria in pregnancy has important consequences for mother and baby. Coverage with the World Health Organization–recommended prevention strategy for pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) and insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) is low. We conducted a systematic review to explore factors affecting delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among healthcare providers and women.
Methods and Results
We searched the Malaria in Pregnancy Library and Global Health Database from 1 January 1990 to 23 April 2013, without language restriction. Data extraction was performed by two investigators independently, and data was appraised for quality and content. Data on barriers and facilitators, and the effect of interventions, were explored using content analysis and narrative synthesis. We conducted a meta-analysis of determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake using random effects models, and performed subgroup analysis to evaluate consistency across interventions and study populations, countries, and enrolment sites. We did not perform a meta-ethnography of qualitative data.
Ninety-eight articles were included, of which 20 were intervention studies. Key barriers to the provision of IPTp and ITNs were unclear policy and guidance on IPTp; general healthcare system issues, such as stockouts and user fees; health facility issues stemming from poor organisation, leading to poor quality of care; poor healthcare provider performance, including confusion over the timing of each IPTp dose; and women's poor antenatal attendance, affecting IPTp uptake. Key determinants of IPTp coverage were education, knowledge about malaria/IPTp, socio-economic status, parity, and number and timing of antenatal clinic visits. Key determinants of ITN coverage were employment status, education, knowledge about malaria/ITNs, age, and marital status. Predictors showed regional variations.
Conclusions
Delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics presents fewer problems than delivery of IPTp. Many obstacles to IPTp delivery are relatively simple barriers that could be resolved in the short term. Other barriers are more entrenched within the overall healthcare system or socio-economic/cultural contexts, and will require medium- to long-term strategies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half the world's population is at risk of malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite that kills a million people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause maternal death, severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Malaria in pregnancy is responsible for about 100,000 babies and 10,000 women dying every year but is preventable by simple, inexpensive interventions that have been available for many years. The World Health Organization recommends a three-pronged approach to the prevention of malaria in pregnancy in areas with stable malaria transmission in Africa—delivery of the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to pregnant women during antenatal clinic visits (intermittent preventative treatment in pregnancy; IPTp), the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) to protect pregnant women from the bites of infected mosquitoes, and effective diagnosis and case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Coverage with this prevention strategy is currently very low. Recent survey data from sub-Saharan African countries suggest that only about a quarter of pregnant women receive two doses of IPTp and only about a third use ITNs. To improve coverage, public health experts need to understand why coverage is so low, and they need to know the factors (determinants) that are associated with the uptake of IPTp and ITNs. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data such as reasons for not accepting an intervention, whereas quantitative studies collect numerical data such as the proportion of a population accepting an intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' search of the Malaria in Pregnancy Library (a resource maintained by the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium) and the Global Health Database identified 98 studies that provided data on barriers to and determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake and/or data on interventions designed to increase IPTp and ITN uptake. The researchers explored these data using content analysis (a research methodology that examines words and phrases within texts) and narrative synthesis (a method for summarizing results drawn from several qualitative studies). Key barriers to the provision and uptake of IPTp and ITNs included unclear policy and guidance on IPTp, general healthcare system issues such as drug shortages, healthcare facility issues such as unavailability of water for the provision of IPTp by directly observed therapy, poor healthcare provider performance such as confusion about the timing of IPTp doses, and the delayed antenatal care-seeking practices of pregnant women. The researchers' meta-analysis identified education, knowledge about malaria, socio-economic status, number and timing of antenatal clinic visits, and number of pregnancies as key determinants of IPTp uptake, and employment status, education, knowledge, age, and marital status as key determinants of coverage of ITN use. So, for example, highly educated women were more likely to receive IPTp or ITNs than poorly educated women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify key interacting barriers to access, delivery, and use of IPTp and ITNs in sub-Saharan Africa and show that these barriers are relatively consistent across countries. Moreover, they suggest that there are fewer barriers to the delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics than to the delivery of IPTp. Importantly, some of the barriers to IPTp uptake can be resolved in the short term (for example, simplification of country policies and guidance on IPTp might increase its uptake), but barriers to uptake that are entrenched within the overall healthcare system will only be resolved with medium- to long-term strategies that aim to improve the quality of antenatal services and to encourage antenatal clinic use among women. Overall, this analysis provides a checklist of factors that policy-makers involved in national malaria programs may be able to use to help them decide which interventions to prioritize. However, the researchers warn, multi-country studies are nevertheless urgently needed to evaluate targeted or multifaceted interventions designed to increase delivery and uptake of IPTp and ITNs, to reduce the adverse consequences of malaria in pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on IPTp; the World Malaria Report 2012 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria and on IPTp; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488
PMCID: PMC3720261  PMID: 23935459
4.  Pregnancy Weight Gain and Childhood Body Weight: A Within-Family Comparison 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001521.
David Ludwig and colleagues examine the within-family relationship between pregnancy weight gain and the offspring's childhood weight gain, thereby reducing the influence of genes and environment.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Excessive pregnancy weight gain is associated with obesity in the offspring, but this relationship may be confounded by genetic and other shared influences. We aimed to examine the association of pregnancy weight gain with body mass index (BMI) in the offspring, using a within-family design to minimize confounding.
Methods and Findings
In this population-based cohort study, we matched records of all live births in Arkansas with state-mandated data on childhood BMI collected in public schools (from August 18, 2003 to June 2, 2011). The cohort included 42,133 women who had more than one singleton pregnancy and their 91,045 offspring. We examined how differences in weight gain that occurred during two or more pregnancies for each woman predicted her children's BMI and odds ratio (OR) of being overweight or obese (BMI≥85th percentile) at a mean age of 11.9 years, using a within-family design. For every additional kg of pregnancy weight gain, childhood BMI increased by 0.0220 (95% CI 0.0134–0.0306, p<0.0001) and the OR of overweight/obesity increased by 1.007 (CI 1.003–1.012, p = 0.0008). Variations in pregnancy weight gain accounted for a 0.43 kg/m2 difference in childhood BMI. After adjustment for birth weight, the association of pregnancy weight gain with childhood BMI was attenuated but remained statistically significant (0.0143 kg/m2 per kg of pregnancy weight gain, CI 0.0057–0.0229, p = 0.0007).
Conclusions
High pregnancy weight gain is associated with increased body weight of the offspring in childhood, and this effect is only partially mediated through higher birth weight. Translation of these findings to public health obesity prevention requires additional study.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Childhood obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. For example, in the United States, the number of obese children has more than doubled in the past 30 years. 7% of American children aged 6–11 years were obese in 1980, compared to nearly 18% in 2010. Because of the rising levels of obesity, the current generation of children may have a shorter life span than their parents for the first time in 200 years.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health. The initial problems are usually psychological. Obese children often experience discrimination, leading to low self-esteem and depression. Their physical health also suffers. They are more likely to be at risk of cardiovascular disease from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They may also develop pre-diabetes or diabetes type II. In the long-term, obese children tend to become obese adults, putting them at risk of premature death from stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
There are many factors that lead to childhood obesity and they often act in combination. A major risk factor, especially for younger children, is having at least one obese parent. The challenge lies in unravelling the complex links between the genetic and environmental factors that are likely to be involved.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several studies have shown that a child's weight is influenced by his/her mother's weight before pregnancy and her weight gain during pregnancy. An obese mother, or a mother who puts on more pregnancy weight than average, is more likely to have an obese child.
One explanation for the effects of pregnancy weight gain is that the mother's overeating directly affects the baby's development. It may change the baby's brain and metabolism in such a way as to increase the child's long-term risk of obesity. Animal studies have confirmed that the offspring of overfed rats show these kinds of physiological changes. However, another possible explanation is that mother and baby share a similar genetic make-up and environment so that a child becomes obese from inheriting genetic risk factors, and growing up in a household where being overweight is the norm.
The studies in humans that have been carried out to date have not been able to distinguish between these explanations. Some have given conflicting results. The aim of this study was therefore to look for evidence of links between pregnancy weight gain and children's weight, using an approach that would separate the impact of genetic and environmental factors from a direct effect on the developing baby.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined data from the population of the US state of Arkansas recorded between 2003 and 2011. They looked at the health records of over 42,000 women who had given birth to more than one child during this period. This gave them information about how much weight the women had gained during each of their pregnancies. The researchers also looked at the school records of the children, over 91,000 in total, which included the children's body mass index (BMI, which factors in both height and weight). They analyzed the data to see if there was a link between the mothers' pregnancy weight gain and the child's BMI at around 12 years of age. Most importantly, they looked at these links within families, comparing children born to the same mother. The rationale for this approach was that these children would share a similar genetic make-up and would have grown up in similar environments. By taking genetics and environment into account in this manner, any remaining evidence of an impact of pregnancy weight gain on the children's BMI would have to be explained by other factors.
The results showed that the amount of weight each mother gained in pregnancy predicted her children's BMI and the likelihood of her children being overweight or obese. For every additional kg the mother gained during pregnancy, the children's BMI increased by 0.022. The children of mothers who put on the most weight had a BMI that was on average 0.43 higher than the children whose mothers had put on the least weight.
The study leaves some questions unanswered, including whether the mother's weight before pregnancy makes a difference to their children's BMI. The researchers were not able to obtain these measurements, nor the weight of the fathers. There may have also been other factors that weren't measured that might explain the links that were found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that mothers who gain excessive weight during pregnancy increase the risk of their child becoming obese. This appears to be partly due to a direct effect on the developing baby.
These results represent a significant public health concern, even though the impact on an individual basis is relatively small. They could contribute to several hundred thousand cases of childhood obesity worldwide. Importantly, they also suggest that some cases could be prevented by measures to limit excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Such an approach could prove effective, as most mothers will not want to damage their child's health, and might therefore be highly motivated to change their behavior. However, because inadequate weight gain during pregnancy can also adversely affect the developing fetus, it will be essential for women to receive clear information about what constitutes optimal weight gain during pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide Childhood Obesity Facts
The UK National Health Service article “How much weight will I put on during my pregnancy?” provides information on pregnancy and weight gain and links to related resources
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001521
PMCID: PMC3794857  PMID: 24130460
5.  Exploring the Developmental Overnutrition Hypothesis Using Parental–Offspring Associations and FTO as an Instrumental Variable 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e33.
Background
The developmental overnutrition hypothesis suggests that greater maternal obesity during pregnancy results in increased offspring adiposity in later life. If true, this would result in the obesity epidemic progressing across generations irrespective of environmental or genetic changes. It is therefore important to robustly test this hypothesis.
Methods and Findings
We explored this hypothesis by comparing the associations of maternal and paternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) with offspring dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)–determined fat mass measured at 9 to 11 y (4,091 parent–offspring trios) and by using maternal FTO genotype, controlling for offspring FTO genotype, as an instrument for maternal adiposity. Both maternal and paternal BMI were positively associated with offspring fat mass, but the maternal association effect size was larger than that in the paternal association in all models: mean difference in offspring sex- and age-standardised fat mass z-score per 1 standard deviation BMI 0.24 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.22 to 0.26) for maternal BMI versus 0.13 (95% CI: 0.11, 0.15) for paternal BMI; p-value for difference in effect < 0.001. The stronger maternal association was robust to sensitivity analyses assuming levels of non-paternity up to 20%. When maternal FTO, controlling for offspring FTO, was used as an instrument for the effect of maternal adiposity, the mean difference in offspring fat mass z-score per 1 standard deviation maternal BMI was −0.08 (95% CI: −0.56 to 0.41), with no strong statistical evidence that this differed from the observational ordinary least squares analyses (p = 0.17).
Conclusions
Neither our parental comparisons nor the use of FTO genotype as an instrumental variable, suggest that greater maternal BMI during offspring development has a marked effect on offspring fat mass at age 9–11 y. Developmental overnutrition related to greater maternal BMI is unlikely to have driven the recent obesity epidemic.
Using parental-offspring associations and theFTO gene as an instrumental variable for maternal adiposity, Debbie Lawlor and colleagues found that greater maternal BMI during offspring development does not appear to have a marked effect on offspring fat mass at age 9-11.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the 1970s, the proportion of children and adults who are overweight or obese (people who have an unhealthy amount of body fat) has increased sharply in many countries. In the US, 1 in 3 adults is now obese; in the mid-1970s it was only 1 in 7. Similarly, the proportion of overweight children has risen from 1 in 20 to 1 in 5. An adult is considered to be overweight if their body mass index (BMI)—their weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared—is between 25 and 30, and obese if it is more than 30. For children, the healthy BMI depends on their age and gender. Compared to people with a healthy weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 25), overweight or obese individuals have an increased lifetime risk of developing diabetes and other adverse health conditions, sometimes becoming ill while they are still young. People become unhealthily fat when they consume food and drink that contains more energy than they need for their daily activities. It should, therefore, be possible to avoid becoming obese by having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some researchers think that “developmental overnutrition” may have caused the recent increase in waistline measurements. In other words, if a mother is overweight during pregnancy, high sugar and fat levels in her body might permanently affect her growing baby's appetite control and metabolism, and so her offspring might be at risk of becoming obese in later life. If this hypothesis is true, each generation will tend to be fatter than the previous one and it will be very hard to halt the obesity epidemic simply by encouraging people to eat less and exercise more. In this study, the researchers have used two approaches to test the developmental overnutrition hypothesis. First, they have asked whether offspring fat mass is more strongly related to maternal BMI than to paternal BMI; it should be if the hypothesis is true. Second, they have asked whether a genetic indicator of maternal fatness—the “A” variant of the FTO gene—is related to offspring fat mass. A statistical association between maternal FTO genotype (genetic make-up) and offspring fat mass would support the developmental nutrition hypothesis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In 1991–1992, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) enrolled about 14,000 pregnant women and now examines their offspring at regular intervals. The researchers first used statistical methods to look for associations between the self-reported prepregnancy BMI of the parents of about 4,000 children and the children's fat mass at ages 9–11 years measured using a technique called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Both maternal and paternal BMI were positively associated with offspring fat mass (that is, fatter parents had fatter children) but the effect of maternal BMI was greater than the effect of paternal BMI. When the researchers examined maternal FTO genotypes and offspring fat mass (after allowing for the offspring's FTO genotype, which would directly affect their fat mass), there was no statistical evidence to suggest that differences in offspring fat mass were related to the maternal FTO genotype.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although the findings from first approach provide some support for the development overnutrition hypothesis, the effect of maternal BMI on offspring fat mass is too weak to explain the recent obesity epidemic. Developmental overnutrition could, however, be responsible for the much slower increase in obesity that began a century ago. The findings from the second approach provide no support for the developmental overnutrition hypothesis, although these results have wide error margins and need confirming in a larger study. The researchers also note that the effects of developmental overnutrition on offspring fat mass, although weak at age 9–11, might become more important at later ages. Nevertheless, for now, it seems unlikely that developmental overnutrition has been a major driver of the recent obesity epidemic. Interventions that aim to improve people's diet and to increase their physical activity levels could therefore slow or even halt the epidemic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050033.
See a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on obesity (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on all aspects of obesity (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service's health Web site (NHS Direct) provides information about obesity
The International Obesity Taskforce provides information about preventing obesity and on childhood obesity
The UK Foods Standards Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Shaping America's Health all provide useful advice about healthy eating for adults and children
The ALSPAC Web site provides information about the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and its results so far
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050033
PMCID: PMC2265763  PMID: 18336062
6.  Behavioural interventions for weight management in pregnancy: A systematic review of quantitative and qualitative data 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:491.
Background
There is a rising prevalence of excessive weight gain in pregnancy and an increasing number of pregnant women who are overweight or obese at the start of the pregnancy. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is associated with adverse maternal and neonatal consequences and increases the risk of long-term obesity. Pregnancy therefore may be a key time to prevent excessive weight gain and improve the health of women and their unborn child. This systematic review sought to assess the effectiveness of behavioural interventions to prevent excessive weight gain in pregnancy and explore the factors that influence intervention effectiveness.
Methods
We undertook a systematic review of quantitative and qualitative evidence. This included a meta-analysis of controlled trials of diet and physical activity interventions to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy and a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies that investigated the views of women on weight management during pregnancy. A thorough search of eleven electronic bibliographic databases, reference lists of included studies, relevant review articles and experts in the field were contacted to identify potentially relevant studies.
Two independent reviewers extracted data. RevMan software was used to perform the meta-analyses. Qualitative data was subject to thematic analysis. Both quantitative and qualitative data were aligned using a matrix framework.
Results
Five controlled trials and eight qualitative studies were included. The overall pooled effect size found no significant difference in gestational weight gain amongst participants in the intervention group compared with the control group (mean difference -0.28 95% CI -0.64 to 0.09). The study designs, participants and interventions all varied markedly and there was significant heterogeneity within this comparison in the meta-analysis (I2 67%). Subgroup and sensitivity analysis did not identify contextual elements that influenced the effectiveness of the intervention.
In a thematic analysis of the qualitative studies, three major themes emerged relating to women's views of weight management in pregnancy: pregnancy as a time of transition and change, conflicting and contradictory messages and a perceived lack of control. When the results of both quantitative and qualitative data were aligned it was clear that some of the barriers that women described in achieving healthy weight gain in pregnancy were not addressed by the interventions evaluated. This may have contributed to the limited effectiveness of the interventions.
Conclusions
Despite intense and often tailored interventions there was no statistically significant effect on weight gain during pregnancy. Inadequate and often contradictory information regarding healthy weight management was reported by women in qualitative studies and this was addressed in the interventions but this in itself was insufficient to lead to reduced weight gain. Multiple types of interventions, including community based strategies are needed to address this complex health problem.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-491
PMCID: PMC3154865  PMID: 21696589
7.  Exercise in obese pregnant women: positive impacts and current perceptions 
Overweight and obesity have significant implications during pregnancy and childbirth. The objective of this review was to provide a comprehensive overview of the effect of physical activity on pregnancy outcomes, the change of physical activity during pregnancy, and women’s perception of being physically active during pregnancy, with a particular focus on women who are overweight or obese. Many studies have investigated the beneficial effect of exercise during pregnancy, including reduced risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and operative birth, in addition to improved cardiovascular function, overall fitness, psychological well-being, and mood stability. Benefits for the infant include reduced risks of prematurity and improved fetal growth, although there is more limited information about longer-term health benefits for both women and infants. The existing literature examining physical activity patterns during pregnancy has generally focused on women of all body mass index categories, consistently indicating a reduction in activity over the course of pregnancy. However, the available literature evaluating physical activity during pregnancy among women who are overweight or obese is more limited and contradictory. A number of studies identified barriers preventing women from being active during pregnancy, including pregnancy symptoms, lack of time, access to child care, and concerns about their safety and that of their unborn baby. Conversely, significant enablers included positive psychological feelings, family influence, and receiving advice from health professionals. Very few studies have provided insights about perceptions of being active during pregnancy in the overweight and obese population. There is a need for a detailed description of physical activity patterns during pregnancy in women who are overweight or obese, and more randomized trials evaluating exercise interventions for women who are overweight or obese, with a focus on clinical outcomes.
doi:10.2147/IJWH.S34042
PMCID: PMC3704399  PMID: 23861603
pregnancy; exercise; physical activity; overweight; obesity
8.  Why Do Women Not Use Antenatal Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001373.
In a synthesis of 21 qualitative studies representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries, Kenneth Finlayson and Soo Downe examine the reasons why many women in low- and middle-income countries do not receive adequate antenatal care.
Background
Almost 50% of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) don't receive adequate antenatal care. Women's views can offer important insights into this problem. Qualitative studies exploring inadequate use of antenatal services have been undertaken in a range of countries, but the findings are not easily transferable. We aimed to inform the development of future antenatal care programmes through a synthesis of findings in all relevant qualitative studies.
Methods and Findings
Using a predetermined search strategy, we identified robust qualitative studies reporting on the views and experiences of women in LMICs who received inadequate antenatal care. We used meta-ethnographic techniques to generate themes and a line-of-argument synthesis. We derived policy-relevant hypotheses from the findings. We included 21 papers representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries. Three key themes were identified: “pregnancy as socially risky and physiologically healthy”, “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty”, and “not getting it right the first time”. The line-of-argument synthesis describes a dissonance between programme design and cultural contexts that may restrict access and discourage return visits. We hypothesize that centralised, risk-focused antenatal care programmes may be at odds with the resources, beliefs, and experiences of pregnant women who underuse antenatal services.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between current antenatal care provision and the social and cultural context of some women in LMICs. Antenatal care provision that is theoretically and contextually at odds with local contextual beliefs and experiences is likely to be underused, especially when attendance generates increased personal risks of lost family resources or physical danger during travel, when the promised care is not delivered because of resource constraints, and when women experience covert or overt abuse in care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Although maternal deaths worldwide have almost halved since 1990, according to the latest figures, every day roughly 800 women and adolescent girls still die from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth: in 2010, 287,000 women died during or following pregnancy and childbirth, with almost all of these deaths (99%) occurring in low-resource settings. Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the interventions to prevent or manage the most common complications (severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion) are well known. Furthermore, many of these complications can be prevented, detected, or treated during antenatal care visits with trained health workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of four antenatal visits per pregnancy, but according to WHO figures, between 2005 and 2010 only 53% of pregnant women worldwide attended the recommended four antenatal visits; in low-income countries, this figure was a disappointing 36%. Unfortunately, despite huge international efforts to promote and provide antenatal care, there has been little improvement in these statistics over the past decade. It is therefore important to investigate the reasons for poor antenatal attendance and to seek the views of users of antenatal care. In this study, the researchers combined studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that included women's views on antenatal care in a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies (qualitative research uses techniques, such as structured interviews, to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour, and a meta-synthesis combines and interprets information across studies, contexts, and populations).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched several medical, sociological, and psychological databases to find appropriate qualitative studies published between January 1980 and February 2012 that explored the antenatal care experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of women from LMICs who had chosen to access antenatal care late (after 12 weeks' gestation), infrequently (less than four times), or not at all. The researchers included 21 studies (out of the 2,997 initially identified) in their synthesis, representing the views of 1,239 women from 15 countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda) who were either interviewed directly or gave their opinion as part of a focus group.
The researchers identified three main themes. The first theme reflects women's views that pregnancy is a healthy state and so saw little reason to visit health professionals when they perceived no risk to their well-being—the researchers called this theme, “pregnancy as socially contingent and physiologically healthy.” The second theme relates to women's limited financial resources, so that even when antenatal care was offered free of charge, the cost of transport to get there, the loss of earnings associated with the visit, and the possibility of having to pay for medicines meant that women were unable to attend—the researchers called this theme “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty.” The third theme the researchers identified related to women's views that the antenatal services were inadequate and that the benefits of attending did not outweigh any potential harms. For example, pregnant women who initially recognized the benefits of antenatal care were often disappointed by the lack of resources they found when they got there and, consequently, decided not to return. The researchers called this theme “not getting it right the first time.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between the principles that underpin the provision of antenatal care and the beliefs and socio-economic contexts of pregnant women in LMICs, meaning that even high-quality antenatal care may not be used by some pregnant women unless their views and concerns are addressed. The themes identified in this meta-synthesis could provide the basis for a new approach to the design and delivery of antenatal care that takes local beliefs and values and resource availability into account. Such programs might help ensure that antenatal care meets pregnant women's expectations and treats them appropriately so that they want to regularly attend antenatal care.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373.
Wikipedia describes antenatal care (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization has a wealth of information relating to pregnancy, including antenatal care
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has evidence-based guidelines on antenatal care
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has a series of web pages and links relating to respectful maternity care in LMICs
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics is an international organization with connections to various maternity initiatives in LMICs
International Confederation of Midwives has details of the Millennium Development Goals relating to maternity care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373
PMCID: PMC3551970  PMID: 23349622
9.  Obesity and pregnancy, an epidemiological and intervention study from a psychosocial perspective 
Background: Maternal obesity is a growing public health concern in Belgium as well as in other European countries and is now becoming the most common risk factor associated with pregnancy complications with impact on the health of the women and her offspring. At this moment, there is no specific management strategy for obese pregnant women and mothers, focusing on physical health and psychological well-being.
Objectives: We aimed (1) to study the influence of socio-demographic and obstetrical correlates on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and gestational weight gain (GWG) in different regions of Flanders, Belgium, (2) to review the literature on the onset and progression of labour in normal weight and obese pregnant women, (3) to compare levels and evolution of anxiety and depressed mood during pregnancy between obese women and normal-weight women, (4) to examine whether a prenatal lifestyle intervention programme, based on principles of motivational interviewing, in obese pregnant women reduces GWG and lowers levels of anxiety and depressed mood during pregnancy, (5) to examine associations between inter-pregnancy weight change from the first to the second pregnancy and the risk for adverse perinatal outcomes during the second pregnancy and finally (6) to study predictors of postpartum weight retention (PPWR) in obese mothers at six months after delivery in order to provide clues for the design of interventions aimed at preventing weight retention related to childbearing.
Methods: We performed an epidemiological study, an intervention study during pregnancy with postpartum follow up and a literature review.
Results: One in three Flemish women start pregnancy being overweight or obese and this prevalence has slowly been rising since 2009 in the Flanders. We identified women at risk for a high pre-pregnancy BMI and excessive GWG, both being important predictors for increased pregnancy and birth related complications. In a literature review, we showed that the combination of a higher incidence of post-term deliveries and increased inadequate contraction pattern during the first stage of labour in obese women suggests an influence of obesity on myometrial activity. Given the low compliance for adequate GWG in obese women in the general Flemish population and their increased psycho-social vulnerability compar­ed to the normal weight pregnant women, counselling obese pregnant women can lead to a reduced GWG and increased psychological comfort. Stabilizing inter-pregnancy maternal weight for all women is an important target for reducing adverse perinatal outcomes in the subsequent pregnancy. Psychological discomfort during pregnancy does impact on PPWR in obese mothers six months after delivery.
Discussion and conclusion: Focusing on weight management in obese women before, during and after a pregnancy has advantages for both the mother and her infant. Theoretical and practice based training modules should be developed and focus on: (1) awareness of techniques for identifying the clearly identified risk groups with a high pre-pregnancy BMI and excessive GWG, (2) the increased perinatal risks, (3) an adapted perinatal management and (4) counselling techniques for an adequate weight management and psychological wellbeing in obese pregnant women. To achieve better care for the future, we must focus on tackling maternal obesity. This means that obese women should be reached before they get pregnant for the first time. Targeting primary and community based care, promotion and education are challenging, but the psychosocial context should be acknowledged.
PMCID: PMC4086020  PMID: 25009731
Pregnancy; obesity; epidemiological study; intervention study; interpregnancy; perinatal outcome; psychological outcome
10.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
11.  Enablers of and barriers to making healthy change during pregnancy in overweight and obese women 
The Australasian Medical Journal  2013;6(11):565-577.
Background
High Body Mass Index (BMI) during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of adverse health outcomes. Making healthy change during pregnancy is beneficial, especially for overweight and obese women.
Aims
The aim of this study was to explore the barriers and enablers identified by overweight and obese women that preclude and facilitate making healthy change during pregnancy.
Method
We conducted a retrospective analysis of patients who presented with suicide attempts to the Rockhampton Base Hospital Emergency Department, Queensland Australia from 1 September 2007 to 31 August 2009. Multivariate logistic regression was undertaken to identify risk factors for ICU and regular ward admission, and predictors of suicide method.
Results
The core concept of “being pregnant” indicated women consider this specific time as both a reason not to make healthy change as well as a motivation for change. Overweight and obese women cited the following barriers to making healthy change during pregnancy: physiological (e.g. pregnancy complications and tiredness); emotional (e.g. preference and mood); cognitive (e.g. lack knowledge); interpersonal (e.g. lack support); and environmental (e.g. availability of healthy choice). Similar enablers were identified by overweight and obese women: physiological (e.g. relief of pregnancy symptoms); emotional (e.g. approval and commitment); cognitive (e.g. knowledge and belief); interpersonal (e.g. family support); and environmental (e.g. help from others). More barriers than enablers were given, indicating that women were more sensitive to barriers than the enablers for making healthy change. Factors viewed by some women as barriers were viewed as enablers by others.
Conclusion
When designing interventions to promote healthy eating and physical activity during pregnancy, individually focused interventions must be implemented in conjunction with environmental-level interventions to facilitate behaviour change.
doi:10.4066/AMJ.2013.1881
PMCID: PMC3858610  PMID: 24348873
Pregnancy; overweight; healthy change
12.  Women's Access and Provider Practices for the Case Management of Malaria during Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001688.
Jenny Hill and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of women’s access and healthcare provider adherence to WHO case-management policy of malaria during pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
WHO recommends prompt diagnosis and quinine plus clindamycin for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in the first trimester and artemisinin-based combination therapies in subsequent trimesters. We undertook a systematic review of women's access to and healthcare provider adherence to WHO case management policy for malaria in pregnant women.
Methods and Findings
We searched the Malaria in Pregnancy Library, the Global Health Database, and the International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs Bibliography from 1 January 2006 to 3 April 2014, without language restriction. Data were appraised for quality and content. Frequencies of women's and healthcare providers' practices were explored using narrative synthesis and random effect meta-analysis. Barriers to women's access and providers' adherence to policy were explored by content analysis using NVivo. Determinants of women's access and providers' case management practices were extracted and compared across studies. We did not perform a meta-ethnography. Thirty-seven studies were included, conducted in Africa (30), Asia (4), Yemen (1), and Brazil (2). One- to three-quarters of women reported malaria episodes during pregnancy, of whom treatment was sought by >85%. Barriers to access among women included poor knowledge of drug safety, prohibitive costs, and self-treatment practices, used by 5%–40% of women. Determinants of women's treatment-seeking behaviour were education and previous experience of miscarriage and antenatal care. Healthcare provider reliance on clinical diagnosis and poor adherence to treatment policy, especially in first versus other trimesters (28%, 95% CI 14%–47%, versus 72%, 95% CI 39%–91%, p = 0.02), was consistently reported. Prescribing practices were driven by concerns over side effects and drug safety, patient preference, drug availability, and cost. Determinants of provider practices were access to training and facility type (public versus private). Findings were limited by the availability, quality, scope, and methodological inconsistencies of the included studies.
Conclusions
A systematic assessment of the extent of substandard case management practices of malaria in pregnancy is required, as well as quality improvement interventions that reach all providers administering antimalarial drugs in the community. Pregnant women need access to information on which anti-malarial drugs are safe to use at different stages of pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite, kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and preterm births, and kills about 10,000 women and 100,000 children each year. Since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that uncomplicated malaria (an infection that causes a fever but does not involve organ damage or severe anemia) should be treated with quinine and clindamycin if it occurs during the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy and with an artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) if it occurs during the second or third trimester; ACTs should be used during the first trimester only if no other treatment is immediately available because their safety during early pregnancy has not been established. Since 2010, WHO has also recommended that clinical diagnosis of malaria should be confirmed before treatment by looking for parasites in patients' blood (parasitology).
Why Was This Study Done?
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria in pregnancy in regions where malaria is always present (endemic regions) is extremely important, yet little is known about women's access to the recommended interventions for malaria in pregnancy or about healthcare providers' adherence to the WHO case management guidelines. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect women's access to treatment and healthcare provider practices for case management of malaria during pregnancy. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. A qualitative study collects non-quantitative data such as reasons for refusing an intervention, whereas a qualitative study collects numerical data such as the proportion of a population receiving an intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 37 studies (mostly conducted in Africa) that provided data on the range of healthcare providers visited, antimalarials used, and the factors influencing the choice of healthcare provider and medicines among pregnant women seeking treatment for malaria and/or the type and quality of diagnostic and case management services offered to them by healthcare providers. The researchers explored the data in these studies using narrative synthesis (which summarizes the results from several qualitative studies) and content analysis (which identifies key themes within texts). Among the studies that provided relevant data, one-quarter to three-quarters of women reported malaria episodes during pregnancy. More than 85% of the women who reported a malaria episode during pregnancy sought some form of treatment. Barriers to access to WHO-recommended treatment among women included poor knowledge about drug safety, and the use of self-treatment practices such as taking herbal remedies. Factors that affected the treatment-seeking behavior of pregnant women (“determinants”) included prior use of antenatal care, education, and previous experience of a miscarriage. Among healthcare providers, reliance on clinical diagnosis of malaria was consistently reported, as was poor adherence to the treatment policy. Specifically, 28% and 72% of healthcare providers followed the treatment guidelines for malaria during the first and second/third trimesters of pregnancy, respectively. Finally, the researchers report that concerns over side effects and drug safety, patient preference, drug availability, and cost drove the prescribing practices of the healthcare providers, and that the determinants of provider practices included the type (cadre) of heathcare worker, access to training, and whether they were based in a public or private facility.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal important limitations in the implementation of the WHO policy on the treatment of malaria in pregnancy across many parts of Africa and in several other malaria endemic regions. Notably, they show that women do not uniformly seek care within the formal healthcare system and suggest that, when they do seek care, they may not be given the appropriate treatment because healthcare providers frequently fail to adhere to the WHO diagnostic and treatment guidelines. Although limited by the sparseness of data and by inconsistencies in study methodologies, these findings nevertheless highlight the need for further systematic assessments of the extent of substandard case management of malaria in pregnancy in malaria endemic countries, and the need to develop interventions to improve access to and delivery of quality case management of malaria among pregnant women.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001688.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on malaria in pregnancy; the 2010 Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria are available; the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy and provides links to the consortium's publications and an online library on malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001688
PMCID: PMC4122360  PMID: 25093720
13.  Perspectives on weight gain and lifestyle practices during pregnancy among women with a history of macrosomia: a qualitative study in the Republic of Ireland 
Background
Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is a major risk factor for macrosomia (high birth weight delivery). This study aimed to explore views about weight gain and lifestyle practices during pregnancy among women with a history of macrosomia.
Methods
A qualitative descriptive study was conducted. Twenty-one second-time mothers whose first infant was macrosomic (>4 kg) were recruited from a randomised trial in a large maternity hospital in the Republic of Ireland. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants at both 6 and 12 months after their second pregnancy. Inductive thematic analysis was used to identify distinct themes.
Results
The mothers believed in following their prenatal food cravings to meet their baby’s needs, but this led some to eat excessively. Many of the women cut back heavily on physical activity during pregnancy due to perceived risks to the baby. Physical conditions and discomforts during pregnancy often limited maternal control over weight and lifestyle practices. The women were not particularly concerned about weight gain during pregnancy and most did not favour the notion of introducing weight gain guidelines into routine antenatal care. Common differences perceived by the women between their first and second pregnancy included: increased concern about weight gain in their second pregnancy due to prior difficulties with postpartum weight loss and increased time demands in their second pregnancy impeded healthy lifestyle practices. Most women did not alter their perspectives on weight gain and lifestyle practices in their second pregnancy in response to having a macrosomic infant in their first pregnancy.
Conclusions
This analysis exposed numerous barriers to healthy pregnancy weight gain. The findings suggest that women may need to be advised to follow their prenatal food cravings in moderation. Pregnant women with children already may benefit from education on time-efficient methods of integrating healthy eating practices and physical activity into their lifestyles. Women with a history of macrosomia may need information about the importance of avoiding high weight gain in subsequent pregnancies.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-202
PMCID: PMC3827496  PMID: 24195741
Weight gain during pregnancy; Macrosomia; Qualitative research; Lifestyle practices
14.  Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Pregnancy with Mefloquine in HIV-Infected Women Receiving Cotrimoxazole Prophylaxis: A Multicenter Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001735.
Clara Menéndez and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial among HIV-positive pregnant women in Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania to investigate the safety and efficacy of mefloquine as intermittent preventative therapy for malaria in women receiving cotrimoxazole prophylaxis and long-lasting insecticide treated nets.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is recommended for malaria prevention in HIV-negative pregnant women, but it is contraindicated in HIV-infected women taking daily cotrimoxazole prophylaxis (CTXp) because of potential added risk of adverse effects associated with taking two antifolate drugs simultaneously. We studied the safety and efficacy of mefloquine (MQ) in women receiving CTXp and long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITNs).
Methods and Findings
A total of 1,071 HIV-infected women from Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania were randomized to receive either three doses of IPTp-MQ (15 mg/kg) or placebo given at least one month apart; all received CTXp and a LLITN. IPTp-MQ was associated with reduced rates of maternal parasitemia (risk ratio [RR], 0.47 [95% CI 0.27–0.82]; p = 0.008), placental malaria (RR, 0.52 [95% CI 0.29–0.90]; p = 0.021), and reduced incidence of non-obstetric hospital admissions (RR, 0.59 [95% CI 0.37–0.95]; p = 0.031) in the intention to treat (ITT) analysis. There were no differences in the prevalence of adverse pregnancy outcomes between groups. Drug tolerability was poorer in the MQ group compared to the control group (29.6% referred dizziness and 23.9% vomiting after the first IPTp-MQ administration). HIV viral load at delivery was higher in the MQ group compared to the control group (p = 0.048) in the ATP analysis. The frequency of perinatal mother to child transmission of HIV was increased in women who received MQ (RR, 1.95 [95% CI 1.14–3.33]; p = 0.015). The main limitation of the latter finding relates to the exploratory nature of this part of the analysis.
Conclusions
An effective antimalarial added to CTXp and LLITNs in HIV-infected pregnant women can improve malaria prevention, as well as maternal health through reduction in hospital admissions. However, MQ was not well tolerated, limiting its potential for IPTp and indicating the need to find alternatives with better tolerability to reduce malaria in this particularly vulnerable group. MQ was associated with an increased risk of mother to child transmission of HIV, which warrants a better understanding of the pharmacological interactions between antimalarials and antiretroviral drugs.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT 00811421; Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR 2010020001813440
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children living in sub-Saharan Africa but pregnant women living in Africa are also very vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia (reduced red blood cell numbers), stillbirths, and pre-term and low-birthweight babies, and is responsible for the deaths of many African women and their babies. To reduce the loss of life from malaria in pregnancy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women living in Africa receive the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) at each scheduled antenatal care visit given at least a month apart (intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy [IPTp]). In addition, WHO advises pregnant women to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets to protect themselves from the bites of infected mosquitoes and recommends effective case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Pregnant women living in Africa are often infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infection increases both the risk and severity of malaria infection during pregnancy, and at least one million pregnancies are complicated by co-infection with malaria and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa every year. WHO recommends that HIV-positive pregnant women take cotrimoxazole (CTX) daily to prevent opportunistic infections (CTX prophylaxis [CTXp]). Unfortunately, both CTX and SP are antifolate drugs and taking two drugs of this type increases a woman's risk of developing a severe skin reaction. Moreover, although CTXp protects children and HIV-infected adults against malaria, it is not known whether CTXp alone protects HIV-infected pregnant women adequately against malaria. Thus, evaluations of alternative drugs for use in IPTp in HIV-positive pregnant women are needed. In this randomized placebo-controlled trial, the researchers study the safety and efficacy of the antimalarial drug mefloquine (MQ) in HIV-infected women receiving CTXp. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial compares outcomes among people chosen through the play of chance to receive either the drug under investigation or a “dummy” (placebo) drug.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers allocated 1,071 HIV-infected pregnant women from Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania to receive three doses of MQ (IPTp-MQ), given at least one month apart, or three doses of placebo. All the women received CTXp and were given an insecticide-treated bed net. In an intention-to-treat analysis (an analysis that considers the outcomes of all trial participants irrespective of whether they receive their allocated treatment), the prevalence of parasitemia (parasites in the blood) at delivery among women given IPTp-MQ was 3.5% whereas the prevalence among women given the placebo was 6.9%. In other words, compared to placebo, IPTp-MQ was associated with a reduced risk of maternal parasitemia. IPTp-MQ was also associated with a reduced rate of placental malaria (parasites in the placenta) and a reduced incidence of hospital admissions for non-pregnancy related causes. There was no difference in adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth between the intervention groups but drug tolerability was poorer in the MQ group than in the placebo group. Finally, in an exploratory (unplanned) according-to-protocol analysis (an analysis that only considers outcomes in trial participants who receive their allocated intervention), women in the MQ group had a higher HIV viral load at delivery than women in the control group and were nearly twice as likely to transmit HIV to their child around the time of birth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the addition of IPTp-MQ to CTXp and the use of insecticide-treated bed nets can improve malaria prevention and maternal health in HIV-infected pregnant women in Africa. However, the poor tolerability of MQ and the association of MQ treatment with both an increased HIV viral load at delivery and a higher frequency of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV when compared to placebo raise concerns about the use of MQ in IPTp. Because these last two findings came from an exploratory analysis, which is more likely to throw up a chance finding than a pre-planned analysis further studies are needed to confirm these unexpected but potentially important findings. Nevertheless, overall, the findings of this study suggest that MQ should not be recommended for IPTp in HIV-infected pregnant women in Africa and highlight the need to find alternative drugs for malaria prevention in this group of women who are particularly vulnerable to malaria.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001735.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Richard Steketee.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by González et al. compares the efficacy of IPTp-MQ and IPTp-SP in HIV-negative women
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on malaria in pregnancy; information on IPTp and the current WHO policy recommendation on IPTp with SP are available; the 2013 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about the trial protocol is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001735
PMCID: PMC4172537  PMID: 25247995
15.  Maternal Influenza Immunization and Reduced Likelihood of Prematurity and Small for Gestational Age Births: A Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000441.
In an analysis of surveillance data from the state of Georgia (US), Saad Omer and colleagues show an association between receipt of influenza vaccination among pregnant women and reduced risk of premature births.
Background
Infections during pregnancy have the potential to adversely impact birth outcomes. We evaluated the association between receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and prematurity and small for gestational age (SGA) births.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cohort analysis of surveillance data from the Georgia (United States) Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System. Among 4,326 live births between 1 June 2004 and 30 September 2006, maternal influenza vaccine information was available for 4,168 (96.3%). The primary intervention evaluated in this study was receipt of influenza vaccine during any trimester of pregnancy. The main outcome measures were prematurity (gestational age at birth <37 wk) and SGA (birth weight <10th percentile for gestational age). Infants who were born during the putative influenza season (1 October–31 May) and whose mothers were vaccinated against influenza during pregnancy were less likely to be premature compared to infants of unvaccinated mothers born in the same period (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 0.60; 95% CI, 0.38–0.94). The magnitude of association between maternal influenza vaccine receipt and reduced likelihood of prematurity increased during the period of at least local influenza activity (adjusted OR = 0.44; 95% CI, 0.26–0.73) and was greatest during the widespread influenza activity period (adjusted OR = 0.28; 95% CI, 0.11–0.74). Compared with newborns of unvaccinated women, newborns of vaccinated mothers had 69% lower odds of being SGA (adjusted OR = 0.31; 95% CI, 0.13–0.75) during the period of widespread influenza activity. The adjusted and unadjusted ORs were not significant for the pre-influenza activity period.
Conclusions
This study demonstrates an association between immunization with the inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and reduced likelihood of prematurity during local, regional, and widespread influenza activity periods. However, no associations were found for the pre-influenza activity period. Moreover, during the period of widespread influenza activity there was an association between maternal receipt of influenza vaccine and reduced likelihood of SGA birth.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Maternal infections during pregnancy can have harmful effects on both mother and baby. For example, influenza is associated with increased morbidity and mortality among pregnant women compared to women who are not pregnant or who acquire influenza infection after delivery. And some respiratory infections, especially those that can cause maternal pneumonia such as influenza virus, are known to be associated with the baby being small—below the 10th percentile—for gestational age and with an increased risk of preterm birth—birth before 37 weeks of gestation. Previous studies have shown that inactivated influenza vaccination during pregnancy provides protection against influenza virus for both mother and baby. As there has been an increase in the rate of preterm birth the United States from 9.5% in 1981 to 12.8% in 2006, the impact of maternal influenza immunization on birth outcomes has important public health implications and is of particular interest during influenza pandemics.
Why Was This Study Done?
Given that maternal vaccination can protect babies from influenza virus, it is plausible that influenza vaccination in pregnancy could mitigate adverse birth outcomes such as prematurity and the baby being small for gestational age. The researchers of this study set out to evaluate this hypothesis by investigating whether there was an association between women receiving inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and positive birth outcomes for their babies in the population of the state of Georgia, in the United States.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of a large surveillance dataset (the Georgia Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System) to analyze the relationship between receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine during any trimester of pregnancy by mothers of infants born between June 1, 2004, and September 30, 2006, and their baby being premature or small for gestational age. The study period encompassed the 2004–2005 and 2005–2006 influenza seasons—the two most recent seasons for which the data were available. The researchers did a stratified analysis for the overall study period, and various periods during it, and also weighted their analysis to adjust for possible oversampling. They used logistic regression to evaluate the association of maternal influenza vaccine and (a) prematurity and (b) small for gestational age, and also used linear regression to evaluate the statistical significance of differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated women for mean gestational age at first antenatal visit and mean birth weight.
During the study period, 4,168 mother–baby pairs were included in the analysis. Local influenza activity was detected during 27 weeks (22.1%), and 578 women (14.9% [weighted]) had received the influenza vaccine during pregnancy, giving a vaccination coverage of 19.2% (weighted) among mothers of infants born during the assumed influenza season. In the study sample, 1,547 babies (10.6% [weighted]) were born premature, and 1,186 babies (11.2% [weighted]) were small for gestational age. Infants who were born during the assumed influenza season (October–May) and whose mothers were vaccinated against influenza during pregnancy were less likely to be premature than infants of unvaccinated mothers born in the same period, with an adjusted odds ratio of 0.60. The effect of maternal influenza vaccine on reducing prematurity was the highest for infants born during the period of widespread influenza activity, with 72% lower odds of prematurity in infants of vaccinated mothers than infants of unvaccinated mothers. Compared with newborns of unvaccinated women, babies of vaccinated mothers also had 69% lower odds of being small for gestational age during the period of widespread influenza activity, but the adjusted and unadjusted odd ratios were not significant for the pre-influenza activity period.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results show that there was an association between maternal immunization with the inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and reduced likelihood of prematurity during local, regional, and widespread influenza activity periods. In addition, during the period of widespread influenza activity there was an negative association between maternal receipt of influenza vaccine and small for gestational age birth.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000441.
More information about influenza vaccination during pregnancy is available from the World Health Organization and the UK National Health Service
More information about the Georgia Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System is also available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000441
PMCID: PMC3104979  PMID: 21655318
16.  Pregnancy and Infant Outcomes among HIV-Infected Women Taking Long-Term ART with and without Tenofovir in the DART Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(5):e1001217.
Diana Gibb and colleagues investigate the effect of in utero tenofovir exposure by analyzing the pregnancy and infant outcomes of HIV-infected women enrolled in the DART trial.
Background
Few data have described long-term outcomes for infants born to HIV-infected African women taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnancy. This is particularly true for World Health Organization (WHO)–recommended tenofovir-containing first-line regimens, which are increasingly used and known to cause renal and bone toxicities; concerns have been raised about potential toxicity in babies due to in utero tenofovir exposure.
Methods and Findings
Pregnancy outcome and maternal/infant ART were collected in Ugandan/Zimbabwean HIV-infected women initiating ART during The Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial, which compared routine laboratory monitoring (CD4; toxicity) versus clinically driven monitoring. Women were followed 15 January 2003 to 28 September 2009. Infant feeding, clinical status, and biochemistry/haematology results were collected in a separate infant study. Effect of in utero ART exposure on infant growth was analysed using random effects models.
382 pregnancies occurred in 302/1,867 (16%) women (4.4/100 woman-years [95% CI 4.0–4.9]). 226/390 (58%) outcomes were live-births, 27 (7%) stillbirths (≥22 wk), and 137 (35%) terminations/miscarriages (<22 wk). Of 226 live-births, seven (3%) infants died <2 wk from perinatal causes and there were seven (3%) congenital abnormalities, with no effect of in utero tenofovir exposure (p>0.4). Of 219 surviving infants, 182 (83%) enrolled in the follow-up study; median (interquartile range [IQR]) age at last visit was 25 (12–38) months. From mothers' ART, 62/9/111 infants had no/20%–89%/≥90% in utero tenofovir exposure; most were also zidovudine/lamivudine exposed. All 172 infants tested were HIV-negative (ten untested). Only 73/182(40%) infants were breast-fed for median 94 (IQR 75–212) days. Overall, 14 infants died at median (IQR) age 9 (3–23) months, giving 5% 12-month mortality; six of 14 were HIV-uninfected; eight untested infants died of respiratory infection (three), sepsis (two), burns (one), measles (one), unknown (one). During follow-up, no bone fractures were reported to have occurred; 12/368 creatinines and seven out of 305 phosphates were grade one (16) or two (three) in 14 children with no effect of in utero tenofovir (p>0.1). There was no evidence that in utero tenofovir affected growth after 2 years (p = 0.38). Attained height- and weight for age were similar to general (HIV-uninfected) Ugandan populations. Study limitations included relatively small size and lack of randomisation to maternal ART regimens.
Conclusions
Overall 1-year 5% infant mortality was similar to the 2%–4% post-neonatal mortality observed in this region. No increase in congenital, renal, or growth abnormalities was observed with in utero tenofovir exposure. Although some infants died untested, absence of recorded HIV infection with combination ART in pregnancy is encouraging. Detailed safety of tenofovir for pre-exposure prophylaxis will need confirmation from longer term follow-up of larger numbers of exposed children.
Trial registration
www.controlled-trials.com ISRCTN13968779
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, about 34 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV but now about half of all people living with HIV/AIDS are women, most of who became infected through unprotected sex with an infected partner. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 12 million women are HIV-positive. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. Moreover, most of the 400,000 children who become infected with HIV every year acquire the virus from their mother during pregnancy or birth, or through breastfeeding, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)—treatment with cocktails of powerful antiretroviral drugs—reduces HIV-related illness and death among women, and ART given to HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy and delivery and to their newborn babies greatly reduces MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because of ongoing international efforts to increase ART coverage, more HIV-positive women in Africa have access to ART now than ever before. However, little is known about pregnancy outcomes among HIV-infected African women taking ART throughout pregnancy for their own health or about the long-term outcomes of their offspring. In particular, few studies have examined the effect of taking tenofovir (an antiretroviral drug that is now recommended as part of first-line ART) throughout pregnancy. Tenofovir readily crosses from mother to child during pregnancy and, in animal experiments, high doses of tenofovir given during pregnancy caused bone demineralization (which weakens bones), kidney problems, and impaired growth among offspring. In this study, the researchers analyze data collected on pregnancy and infant outcomes among Ugandan and Zimbabwean HIV-positive women who took ART throughout pregnancy in the Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial. This trial was designed to test whether ART could be safely and effectively delivered in Africa without access to the expensive laboratory tests that are routinely used to monitor ART toxicity and efficacy in developed countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The pregnancy outcomes of 302 women who became pregnant during the DART trial and information on birth defects among their babies were collected as part of the DART protocol; information on the survival, growth, and development of the infants born to these women was collected in a separate infant study. Most of the women who became pregnant were taking tenofovir-containing ART before and throughout their pregnancies. 58% of the pregnancies resulted in a live birth, 7% resulted in a stillbirth (birth of a dead baby at any time from 22 weeks gestation to the end of pregnancy), and 35% resulted in a termination or miscarriage (before 22 weeks gestation). Of the 226 live births, seven infants died within 2 weeks and seven had birth defects. Similar proportions of the infants exposed and not exposed to tenofovir during pregnancy died soon after birth or had birth defects. Of the 182 surviving infants who were enrolled in the infant study, 14 subsequently died at an average age of 9 months, giving a 1-year mortality of 5%. None of the surviving children who were tested (172 infants) were HIV infected. No bone fractures or major kidney problems occurred during follow-up and prebirth exposure to tenofovir in utero had no effect on growth or weight gain at 2 years (in contrast to a previous US study).
What Do These Findings Mean?
By showing that prebirth tenofovir exposure does not affect pregnancy outcomes or increase birth defects, growth abnormalities, or kidney problems, these findings support the use of tenofovir-containing ART during pregnancy among HIV-positive African women, and suggest that it could also be used to prevent women of child-bearing age acquiring HIV-infection heterosexually. Notably, the observed 5% 1-year infant mortality is similar to the 2%–4% infant mortality normally seen in the region. The absence of HIV infection among the infants born to the DART participants is also encouraging. However, this is a small study (only 111 infants were exposed to tenofovir throughout pregnancy) and women were not randomly assigned to receive tenofovir-containing ART. Consequently, more studies are needed to confirm that tenofovir exposure during pregnancy does not affect pregnancy outcomes or have any long-term effects on infants. Such studies are essential because the use of tenofovir as a treatment for women who are HIV-positive is likely to increase and tenofovir may also be used in the future to prevent HIV acquisition in HIV-uninfected women.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001217.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, women, HIV and AIDS, children, HIV and AIDS, and on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy (some information in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
More information about the DART trial is available
Additional patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001217
PMCID: PMC3352861  PMID: 22615543
17.  Perceived Barriers to Physical Activity among Pregnant Women 
Maternal and child health journal  2008;13(3):364-375.
Objective
Physical activity generally declines during pregnancy, but barriers to activity during this time period are not well understood. The objective was to examine barriers to physical activity in a large cohort of pregnant women and to explore these barriers in more depth with qualitative data derived from a separate focus group study using a socioecologic framework.
Method
A total of 1535 pregnant women (27–30 weeks’ gestation) enrolled in the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition Study were asked an open-ended question about their primary barrier to physical activity; responses were coded into categories according to the socioecologic framework. To further elucidate, 13 focus groups of a total of 58 pregnant women (20–37 weeks’ gestation) were conducted among Hispanic, African American, and White participants.
Results
Among the 1535 pregnant women participating in the survey, 85% reported an intrapersonal barrier to physical activity, of which almost two-thirds were health related. Only 2% of the women reported their main barrier to physical activity as interpersonal and 3% reported a neighborhood or environmental barrier. These results were supported by the focus group data, overall and by race/ethnicity and body mass index. Although women discussed barriers to physical activity at a variety of levels, the intrapersonal level was the most frequently cited and discussed factor in both studies.
Conclusions
Since pregnancy may trigger the development of obesity and since physical activity is recommended for healthy pregnant women, it is imperative to promote physical activity in a more relevant way. These quantitative and qualitative studies revealed many barriers to physical activity among pregnant women and some suggestions for interventions.
doi:10.1007/s10995-008-0359-8
PMCID: PMC2657195  PMID: 18478322
pregnancy; physical activity; qualitative; exercise
18.  Early intervention of multiple home visits to prevent childhood obesity in a disadvantaged population: a home-based randomised controlled trial (Healthy Beginnings Trial) 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:76.
Background
Studies have shown that a proportion of children as young as two years are already overweight. This indicates that obesity prevention programs that commence as early as possible and are family-focused are needed. This Healthy Beginnings Trial aims to determine the efficacy of a community-based randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a home visiting intervention in preventing the early onset of childhood overweight and obesity. The intervention will be conducted over the first two years of life to increase healthy feeding behaviours and physical activity, decrease physical inactivity, enhance parent-child interaction, and hence reduce overweight and obesity among children at 2 and 5 years of age in the most socially and economically disadvantaged areas of Sydney, Australia.
Methods/design
This RCT will be conducted with a consecutive sample of 782 first time mothers with their newborn children. Pregnant women who are expecting their first child, and who are between weeks 24 and 34 of their pregnancy, will be invited to participate in the trial at the antenatal clinic. Informed consent will be obtained and participants will then be randomly allocated to the intervention or the control group. The allocation will be concealed by sequentially numbered, sealed opaque envelopes containing a computer generated random number. The intervention comprises eight home visits from a specially trained community nurse over two years and pro-active telephone support between the visits. Main outcomes include a) duration of breastfeeding measured at 6 and 12 months, b) introduction of solids measured at 4 and 6 months, c) nutrition, physical activity and television viewing measured at 24 months, and d) overweight/obesity status at age 2 and 5 years.
Discussion
The results of this trial will ascertain whether the home based early intervention is effective in preventing the early onset of childhood overweight and obesity. If proved to be effective, it will result in a series of recommendations for policy and practical methods for promoting healthy feeding and physical activity of children in the first two years of life with particular application to families who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-76
PMCID: PMC1877802  PMID: 17490492
19.  An observational study of nutrition and physical activity behaviours, knowledge, and advice in pregnancy 
Background
Maternal obesity, excess weight gain and lifestyle behaviours during pregnancy have been associated with future overweight and other adverse health outcomes for mothers and babies. This study compared the nutrition and physical activity behaviours of Australian healthy (BMI ≤ 25 k/m2) and overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) pregnant women and described their knowledge and receipt of health professional advice early in pregnancy.
Methods
Pregnant women (n=58) aged 29±5 (mean±s.d.) years were recruited at 16±2 weeks gestation from an Australian metropolitan hospital. Height and weight were measured using standard procedures and women completed a self administered semi-quantitative survey.
Results
Healthy and overweight women had very similar levels of knowledge, behaviour and levels of advice provided except where specifically mentioned. Only 8% and 36% of participants knew the correct recommended daily number of fruit and vegetable serves respectively. Four percent of participants ate the recommended 5 serves/day of vegetables. Overweight women were less likely than healthy weight women to achieve the recommended fruit intake (4% vs. 8%, p=0.05), and more likely to consume soft drinks or cordial (55% vs 43%, p=0.005) and take away foods (37% vs. 25%, p=0.002) once a week or more. Less than half of all women achieved sufficient physical activity. Despite 80% of women saying they would have liked education about nutrition, physical activity and weight gain, particularly at the beginning of pregnancy, less than 50% were given appropriate advice regarding healthy eating and physical activity.
Conclusion
Healthy pregnancy behaviour recommendations were not being met, with overweight women less likely to meet some of the recommendations. Knowledge of dietary recommendations was poor and health care professional advice was limited. There are opportunities to improve the health care practices and education pregnant women received to improve knowledge and behaviours. Pregnant women appear to want this.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-115
PMCID: PMC3663720  PMID: 23688111
Pregnancy; Nutrition; Dietary intake; Physical activity; Knowledge; Advice
20.  A Risk Prediction Model for the Assessment and Triage of Women with Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy in Low-Resourced Settings: The miniPIERS (Pre-eclampsia Integrated Estimate of RiSk) Multi-country Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001589.
Beth Payne and colleagues use a risk prediction model, the Pre-eclampsia Integrated Estimate of RiSk (miniPIERS) to help inform the clinical assessment and triage of women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in low-resourced settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Pre-eclampsia/eclampsia are leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, particularly in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs). We developed the miniPIERS risk prediction model to provide a simple, evidence-based tool to identify pregnant women in LMICs at increased risk of death or major hypertensive-related complications.
Methods and Findings
From 1 July 2008 to 31 March 2012, in five LMICs, data were collected prospectively on 2,081 women with any hypertensive disorder of pregnancy admitted to a participating centre. Candidate predictors collected within 24 hours of admission were entered into a step-wise backward elimination logistic regression model to predict a composite adverse maternal outcome within 48 hours of admission. Model internal validation was accomplished by bootstrapping and external validation was completed using data from 1,300 women in the Pre-eclampsia Integrated Estimate of RiSk (fullPIERS) dataset. Predictive performance was assessed for calibration, discrimination, and stratification capacity. The final miniPIERS model included: parity (nulliparous versus multiparous); gestational age on admission; headache/visual disturbances; chest pain/dyspnoea; vaginal bleeding with abdominal pain; systolic blood pressure; and dipstick proteinuria. The miniPIERS model was well-calibrated and had an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC ROC) of 0.768 (95% CI 0.735–0.801) with an average optimism of 0.037. External validation AUC ROC was 0.713 (95% CI 0.658–0.768). A predicted probability ≥25% to define a positive test classified women with 85.5% accuracy. Limitations of this study include the composite outcome and the broad inclusion criteria of any hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. This broad approach was used to optimize model generalizability.
Conclusions
The miniPIERS model shows reasonable ability to identify women at increased risk of adverse maternal outcomes associated with the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. It could be used in LMICs to identify women who would benefit most from interventions such as magnesium sulphate, antihypertensives, or transportation to a higher level of care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Each year, ten million women develop pre-eclampsia or a related hypertensive (high blood pressure) disorder of pregnancy and 76,000 women die as a result. Globally, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy cause around 12% of maternal deaths—deaths of women during or shortly after pregnancy. The mildest of these disorders is gestational hypertension, high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational hypertension does not usually harm the mother or her unborn child and resolves after delivery but up to a quarter of women with this condition develop pre-eclampsia, a combination of hypertension and protein in the urine (proteinuria). Women with mild pre-eclampsia may not have any symptoms—the condition is detected during antenatal checks—but more severe pre-eclampsia can cause headaches, blurred vision, and other symptoms, and can lead to eclampsia (fits), multiple organ failure, and death of the mother and/or her baby. The only “cure” for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby as soon as possible but women are sometimes given antihypertensive drugs to lower their blood pressure or magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures.
Why Was This Study Done?
Women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are more likely to develop complications of pre-eclampsia than women in high-income countries and most of the deaths associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy occur in LMICs. The high burden of illness and death in LMICs is thought to be primarily due to delays in triage (the identification of women who are or may become severely ill and who need specialist care) and delays in transporting these women to facilities where they can receive appropriate care. Because there is a shortage of health care workers who are adequately trained in the triage of suspected cases of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in many LMICs, one way to improve the situation might be to design a simple tool to identify women at increased risk of complications or death from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Here, the researchers develop miniPIERS (Pre-eclampsia Integrated Estimate of RiSk), a clinical risk prediction model for adverse outcomes among women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy suitable for use in community and primary health care facilities in LMICs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data on candidate predictors of outcome that are easy to collect and/or measure in all health care settings and that are associated with pre-eclampsia from women admitted with any hypertensive disorder of pregnancy to participating centers in five LMICs to build a model to predict death or a serious complication such as organ damage within 48 hours of admission. The miniPIERS model included parity (whether the woman had been pregnant before), gestational age (length of pregnancy), headache/visual disturbances, chest pain/shortness of breath, vaginal bleeding with abdominal pain, systolic blood pressure, and proteinuria detected using a dipstick. The model was well-calibrated (the predicted risk of adverse outcomes agreed with the observed risk of adverse outcomes among the study participants), it had a good discriminatory ability (it could separate women who had a an adverse outcome from those who did not), and it designated women as being at high risk (25% or greater probability of an adverse outcome) with an accuracy of 85.5%. Importantly, external validation using data collected in fullPIERS, a study that developed a more complex clinical prediction model based on data from women attending tertiary hospitals in high-income countries, confirmed the predictive performance of miniPIERS.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the miniPIERS model performs reasonably well as a tool to identify women at increased risk of adverse maternal outcomes associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Because miniPIERS only includes simple-to-measure personal characteristics, symptoms, and signs, it could potentially be used in resource-constrained settings to identify the women who would benefit most from interventions such as transportation to a higher level of care. However, further external validation of miniPIERS is needed using data collected from women living in LMICs before the model can be used during routine antenatal care. Moreover, the value of miniPIERS needs to be confirmed in implementation projects that examine whether its potential translates into clinical improvements. For now, though, the model could provide the basis for an education program to increase the knowledge of women, families, and community health care workers in LMICs about the signs and symptoms of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001589.
The World Health Organization provides guidelines for the management of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy in low-resourced settings
The Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program provides information on pre-eclampsia and eclampsia targeted to low-resourced settings along with a tool-kit for LMIC providers
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides information about high blood pressure in pregnancy and a guide to lowering blood pressure in pregnancy
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about pre-eclampsia
The US not-for profit organization Preeclampsia Foundation provides information about all aspects of pre-eclampsia; its website includes some personal stories
The UK charity Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure and pregnancy (in English and Spanish); the MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a video about pre-eclampsia (also in English and Spanish)
More information about miniPIERS and about fullPIERS is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001589
PMCID: PMC3897359  PMID: 24465185
21.  Experiences of physical activity during pregnancy in Danish nulliparous women with a physically active life before pregnancy. A qualitative study 
Background
National guidelines recommend that healthy pregnant women take 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day. Most women reduce the level of physical activity during pregnancy but only a few studies of women's experiences of physical activity during pregnancy exist. The aim of the present study was to elucidate experiences and views of leisure time physical activity during pregnancy in nulliparous women who were physically active prior to their pregnancy.
Methods
A qualitative study was conducted by means of personal interviews. Nineteen women, all with a moderate pre-pregnancy level of physical activity but with different levels of physical activity during pregnancy, participated in the study. Content analysis was applied.
Results
In the analyses of experiences and views of physical activities during pregnancy, four categories and nine sub-categories were developed: Physical activity as a lifestyle (Habit and Desire to continue), Body awareness (Pregnancy-related discomfort, Having a complicated pregnancy and A growing body), Carefulness (Feelings of worry and Balancing worry and sense of security) and Sense of benefit (Feelings of happiness and Physical well-being).
Conclusion
As other studies have also shown, women find that the discomfort and complications associated with pregnancy, the growing body, and a sense of insecurity with physical activity are barriers to maintaining former levels of physical activity. This study adds a new perspective by describing women's perceptions of these barriers and of overcoming them - thus, when pregnant, the majority of the women do not cease to be physically active but continue to be so. Barriers are overcome by applying one's own experience, looking to role models, mirroring the activities of other pregnant women and following the advice of experts (midwives/physiotherapists). Women then continue to be physically active during pregnancy, most often to a lesser extent or in alternative activities, and derive considerable enjoyment and physical well-being from this.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-33
PMCID: PMC2913936  PMID: 20584333
22.  Consequences of Gestational Diabetes in an Urban Hospital in Viet Nam: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001272.
Jane Hirst and colleagues determined the prevalence and outcome of gestational diabetes mellitus in urban Vietnam and found that choice of criteria greatly affected prevalence, and has implications for the ability of the health system to cope with the number of cases.
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is increasing and is a risk for type 2 diabetes. Evidence supporting screening comes mostly from high-income countries. We aimed to determine prevalence and outcomes in urban Viet Nam. We compared the proposed International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) criterion, requiring one positive value on the 75-g glucose tolerance test, to the 2010 American Diabetes Association (ADA) criterion, requiring two positive values.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective cohort study in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Study participants were 2,772 women undergoing routine prenatal care who underwent a 75-g glucose tolerance test and interview around 28 (range 24–32) wk. GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion was treated by local protocol. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion but not the ADA criterion were termed “borderline” and received standard care. 2,702 women (97.5% of cohort) were followed until discharge after delivery. GDM was diagnosed in 164 participants (6.1%) by the ADA criterion, 550 (20.3%) by the IADPSG criterion. Mean body mass index was 20.45 kg/m2 in women with out GDM, 21.10 in women with borderline GDM, and 21.81 in women with GDM, p<0.001. Women with GDM and borderline GDM were more likely to deliver preterm, with adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of 1.49 (95% CI 1.16–1.91) and 1.52 (1.03–2.24), respectively. They were more likely to have clinical neonatal hypoglycaemia, aORs of 4.94 (3.41–7.14) and 3.34 (1.41–7.89), respectively. For large for gestational age, the aORs were 1.16 (0.93–1.45) and 1.31 (0.96–1.79), respectively. There was no significant difference in large for gestational age, death, severe birth trauma, or maternal morbidity between the groups. Women with GDM underwent more labour inductions, aOR 1.51 (1.08–2.11).
Conclusions
Choice of criterion greatly affects GDM prevalence in Viet Nam. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion were at risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycaemia, although this criterion resulted in 20% of pregnant women being positive for GDM. The ability to cope with such a large number of cases and prevent associated adverse outcomes needs to be demonstrated before recommending widespread screening.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are usually controlled by insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs, and if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops, usually in mid-pregnancy. Risk factors for GDM include a high body mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or lack of physical activity during pregnancy, and glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes that is measured using the “oral glucose tolerance test”). GDM increases the risk of premature delivery, induced delivery, and having a large-for-gestational-age baby (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). It also increases the baby's risk of having low blood sugar (neonatal hypoglycemia). GDM, which can often be controlled by exercise and diet, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases the risk of diabetes developing later in both mother and baby.
Why Was This Study Done?
The prevalence (occurrence) of diabetes is increasing rapidly, particularly in low/middleincome countries as they become more affluent. Because GDM increases the subsequent risk of diabetes, some experts believe that screening for GDM should be included in prenatal care as part of diabetes preventative strategies. However, most of the evidence supporting GDM screening comes from high-income countries, so in this prospective cohort study (a study that analyses associations between the baseline characteristics of a group of patients and outcomes), the researchers investigate the prevalence of GDM (diagnosed using the oral glucose tolerance test) and the consequences of GDM among women attending an urban hospital in Viet Nam, a low/middle-income country. An oral glucose tolerance test measures a patient's blood-sugar level after an overnight fast, and one and two hours after consuming a sugary drink. The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines state, respectively, that one and two of these blood-sugar measurements must be abnormally high for a diagnosis of GDM. In this study, the researchers use both guidelines to diagnose GDM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly 3,000 women who attended the hospital for routine prenatal care had a glucose tolerance test at around 28 weeks' gestation and were followed until discharge after delivery. Women who had GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion were referred for dietary advice and glucose monitoring. Those diagnosed by the IADPSG criterion only were described as having “borderline” GDM and received standard prenatal care. GDM was diagnosed in 6.1% and 20.3% of the women using the ADA and IADPSG criteria, respectively. After allowing for other factors that might have affected outcomes, compared to women without GDM, women with GDM or borderline GDM were more likely to deliver prematurely, and their babies were more likely to have neonatal hypoglycemia. Also, women with GDM (but not borderline GDM) were more likely to have their labor induced than women without GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the criterion used to diagnose GDM markedly affected the prevalence of GDM among pregnant women attending this Vietnamese hospital—the use of the IADPSG criterion more than tripled the prevalence of GDM and meant that a fifth of the study participants were diagnosed as having GDM. Importantly, the findings also show that GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycemia. Although these findings may not be generalizable to other settings within Viet Nam or to other countries, they highlight the need to demonstrate that sufficient resources are available to cope with an increased GDM burden before recommending widespread screening using the IADPSG criterion. Moreover, because the long-term significance of GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion is not known, all the potential benefits and harms and the costs of screening and treating GDM in low-income settings need to be further investigated before any recommendation for “universal” GDM screening is made.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10. 1371/journal.pmed.1001272.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients about diabetes and about gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The American Diabetes Association also provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of diabetes, including gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) 2010 recommendations on the diagnosis and classification of gestational diabetes are available
The charity Diabetes UK provides detailed information for patients and carers, including information on gestational diabetes; its blog includes a personal story about gestational diabetes, and its website includes a selection of other stories from people with diabetes; the charity Healthtalkonline also has an interview describing a personal experience of gestational diabetes
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001272
PMCID: PMC3404117  PMID: 22911157
23.  Mutations in Complement Regulatory Proteins Predispose to Preeclampsia: A Genetic Analysis of the PROMISSE Cohort 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1001013.
Jane Salmon and colleagues studied 250 pregnant patients with SLE and/or antiphospholipid antibodies and found an association of risk variants in complement regulatory proteins in patients who developed preeclampsia, as well as in preeclampsia patients lacking autoimmune disease.
Background
Pregnancy in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or antiphospholipid antibodies (APL Ab)—autoimmune conditions characterized by complement-mediated injury—is associated with increased risk of preeclampsia and miscarriage. Our previous studies in mice indicate that complement activation targeted to the placenta drives angiogenic imbalance and placental insufficiency.
Methods and Findings
We use PROMISSE, a prospective study of 250 pregnant patients with SLE and/or APL Ab, to test the hypothesis in humans that impaired capacity to limit complement activation predisposes to preeclampsia. We sequenced genes encoding three complement regulatory proteins—membrane cofactor protein (MCP), complement factor I (CFI), and complement factor H (CFH)—in 40 patients who had preeclampsia and found heterozygous mutations in seven (18%). Five of these patients had risk variants in MCP or CFI that were previously identified in atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease characterized by endothelial damage. One had a novel mutation in MCP that impairs regulation of C4b. These findings constitute, to our knowledge, the first genetic defects associated with preeclampsia in SLE and/or APL Ab. We confirmed the association of hypomorphic variants of MCP and CFI in a cohort of non-autoimmune preeclampsia patients in which five of 59 were heterozygous for mutations.
Conclusion
The presence of risk variants in complement regulatory proteins in patients with SLE and/or APL Ab who develop preeclampsia, as well as in preeclampsia patients lacking autoimmune disease, links complement activation to disease pathogenesis and suggests new targets for treatment of this important public health problem.
Study Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00198068
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies culminate in the birth of a healthy baby but, sadly, about a quarter of women lose their babies during pregnancy. A common pregnancy-related medical problem that threatens the life of both baby and mother is preeclampsia. Mild and severe preeclampsia affects up to 10% and 1%–2% of pregnancies, respectively. Preeclampsia occurs because of a problem with the function of the placenta, the organ that transfers nutrients and oxygen from mother to baby and removes waste products from the baby. Although preeclampsia begins early in pregnancy, it is diagnosed by the onset of high blood pressure (hypertension) and the appearance of protein in the urine (proteinuria) after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other warning signs include headaches and swelling of the hands and face. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, and labor is usually induced early to prevent eclampsia (seizures), stroke, liver and kidney failure, and breathing and blood vessel problems developing in the mother. Although delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy is not generally recommended, in cases of preeclampsia it may be too dangerous for both the baby and the mother to allow the pregnancy to continue. Unfortunately when severe preeclampsia occurs in the second trimester, babies weighing only 500 grams may be delivered and they may not survive.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, it is difficult to develop treatments for the condition or to find ways to prevent it. Many experts think that immune system problems—in particular, perturbations in complement activation—may be involved in preeclampsia. The complement system is a set of blood proteins that attacks invading bacteria and viruses. The activation of complement proteins is usually tightly regulated (overactivation of the complement system causes tissue damage) and, because preeclampsia may run in families, one hypothesis is that mutations (genetic changes) in complement regulatory proteins might predispose women to preeclampsia. In this study, the researchers test this hypothesis by sequencing genes encoding complement regulatory proteins in pregnant women with the autoimmune diseases systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and/or antiphospholipid antibodies (APL Ab) who developed preeclampsia. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy human cells instead of harmful invaders. Both SLE and APL Ab are characterized by complement-mediated tissue injury and are associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia and miscarriage.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Two hundred fifty women with SLE and/or APL Ab were enrolled into the PROMISSE study (a multi-center observational study to identify predictors of pregnancy outcome in women with SLE and/or APL Ab) when they were 12 weeks pregnant and followed through pregnancy. Thirty patients developed preeclampsia during the study and ten more had had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy. The researchers sequenced the genes for complement regulatory proteins: membrane cofactor protein (MCP), factor I, and factor H in these 40 patients. Seven women (18%) had mutations in one copy of one of these genes (there are two copies of most genes in human cells). Five mutations were alterations in MCP or factor I that are gene variants that increase the risk of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease characterized by blood vessel damage. The sixth mutation was a new MCP mutation that impaired MCP's ability to regulate complement component C4b. The final mutation was a factor H mutation that did not have any obvious functional effect. No mutations in complement regulatory proteins were found in 34 matched participants in PROMISSE without preeclampsia but, among a group of non-autoimmune women who developed preeclampsia during pregnancy, 10% had mutations in MCP or factor I.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify MCP and factor I mutations as genetic defects associated with preeclampsia in pregnant women with SLE and/or APL Ab. Importantly, they also reveal an association between similar mutations and preeclampsia in women without any underlying autoimmune disease. Taken together with evidence from previous animal experiments, these findings suggest that dysregulation of complement activation is involved in the development of preeclampsia. Although further studies are needed to confirm and extend these findings, these results suggest that proteins involved in the regulation of complement activation could be new targets for the treatment of preeclampsia and raise the possibility that tests could be developed to identify women at risk of developing preeclampsia.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001013.
Tommy's, a UK charity that funds scientific research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth, has information on preeclampsia
The March of Dimes Foundation, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, has information on preeclampsia
The UK National Health Services Choices website also has information about preeclampsia
Wikipedia has pages on the complement system, on autoimmune disease, and on preeclampsia (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information on the PROMISSE study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001013
PMCID: PMC3062534  PMID: 21445332
24.  When Do HIV-Infected Women Disclose Their HIV Status to Their Male Partner and Why? A Study in a PMTCT Programme, Abidjan 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(12):e342.
Background
In Africa, women tested for HIV during antenatal care are counselled to share with their partner their HIV test result and to encourage partners to undertake HIV testing. We investigate, among women tested for HIV within a prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) programme, the key moments for disclosure of their own HIV status to their partner and the impact on partner HIV testing.
Methods and Findings
Within the Ditrame Plus PMTCT project in Abidjan, 546 HIV-positive and 393 HIV-negative women were tested during pregnancy and followed-up for two years after delivery. Circumstances, frequency, and determinants of disclosure to the male partner were estimated according to HIV status. The determinants of partner HIV testing were identified according to women's HIV status. During the two-year follow-up, disclosure to the partner was reported by 96.7% of the HIV-negative women, compared to 46.2% of HIV-positive women (χ2 = 265.2, degrees of freedom [df] = 1, p < 0.001). Among HIV-infected women, privileged circumstances for disclosure were just before delivery, during early weaning (at 4 mo to prevent HIV postnatal transmission), or upon resumption of sexual activity. Formula feeding by HIV-infected women increased the probability of disclosure (adjusted odds ratio 1.54, 95% confidence interval 1.04–2.27, Wald test = 4.649, df = 1, p = 0.031), whereas household factors such as having a co-spouse or living with family reduced the probability of disclosure. The proportion of male partners tested for HIV was 23.1% among HIV-positive women and 14.8% among HIV-negative women (χ2 = 10.04, df = 1, p = 0.002). Partners of HIV-positive women who were informed of their wife's HIV status were more likely to undertake HIV testing than those not informed (37.7% versus 10.5%, χ2 = 56.36, df = 1, p < 0.001).
Conclusions
In PMTCT programmes, specific psychosocial counselling and support should be provided to women during the key moments of disclosure of HIV status to their partners (end of pregnancy, weaning, and resumption of sexual activity). This support could contribute to improving women's adherence to the advice given to prevent postnatal and sexual HIV transmission.
In a mother-to-child HIV prevention program in Côte d'Ivoire, Annabel Desgrées-du-Loû and colleagues identify three junctures at which women tend to disclose their HIV status to partners.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the first reported case of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in 1981, the number of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, has risen steadily. By the end of 2006, nearly 40 million people were infected, 25 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is most often spread by having unprotected sex with an infected partner. In Africa, most sexual transmission of HIV is between partners in stable relationships—many such couples do not adopt measures that prevent viral transmission, such as knowing the HIV status of both partners and using condoms if one partner is HIV-positive. HIV can also pass from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, labor, or delivery, or through breastfeeding. Mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV can be reduced by giving anti-HIV drugs to the mother during pregnancy and labor and to her newborn baby, and by avoiding breastfeeding or weaning the baby early.
Why Was This Study Done?
Many African countries have programs for prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) that offer pregnant women prenatal HIV counseling and testing. As a result, women are often the first member of a stable relationship to know their HIV status. PMTCT programs advise women to disclose their HIV test result to their partner and to encourage him to have an HIV test. But for many women, particularly those who are HIV-positive, talking to their partner about HIV/AIDS is hard because of fears of rejection (which could mean loss of housing and food) or accusations of infidelity. Knowing more about when women disclose their HIV status and what makes them decide to do so would help the people running PMTCT programs to support women during the difficult process of disclosure. In this study, the researchers have investigated when and why women participating in a PMTCT research project in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) told their partner about their HIV status and the impact this disclosure had on their partner's uptake of HIV testing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
At regular follow-up visits, the researchers asked women in the Abidjan PMTCT project whether they had told their partners their HIV status and whether they were breast-feeding or had resumed sexual activity. Nearly all the women who tested negative for HIV, but slightly fewer than half of the HIV-positive (infected) women had told their partner about their HIV status by two years after childbirth. Two-thirds of the HIV-positive women who disclosed their status did so before delivery. Other key times for disclosure were at early weaning (4 months after birth) for women who breast-fed their babies, and when sexual activity resumed. HIV-positive women who bottle fed their babies from birth were more likely to tell their partners of their status than women who breast-fed. Factors that prevented women disclosing their HIV status included living in a polygamous relationship or living separately from their partners. Finally, the researchers report that the partners of HIV-positive women who disclosed their HIV status were about three times more likely to take an HIV test than the partners of HIV-positive women who did not disclose.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify three key times when women who have had an HIV test during pregnancy are likely to disclose their HIV status to their partner. The main one is before delivery and relates, in part, to how the mother plans to feed her baby. To bottle feed in Abidjan, women need considerable support from their partners and this may be the impetus for disclosing their HIV status. Disclosure at early weaning may reflect the woman's need to enlist her partner's support for this unusual decision—the normal time for weaning in Abidjan is 17 months. Finally, disclosure when sexual activity resumes may be necessary so that the woman can explain why she wants to use condoms. Although these findings need confirmation in other settings, targeting counseling and support within PMTCT programs to these key moments might help HIV-positive women to tell their partners about their status. This, hopefully, would help to reduce sexual transmission of HIV within stable relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040342.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS and on HIV infection in women
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Women Children and HIV provides extensive information on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in developing countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on HIV and AIDS prevention
AIDSinfo, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services provideshealth information for HIV-positive pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040342
PMCID: PMC2100145  PMID: 18052603
25.  Physical Activity Attenuates the Influence of FTO Variants on Obesity Risk: A Meta-Analysis of 218,166 Adults and 19,268 Children 
Kilpeläinen, Tuomas O. | Qi, Lu | Brage, Soren | Sharp, Stephen J. | Sonestedt, Emily | Demerath, Ellen | Ahmad, Tariq | Mora, Samia | Kaakinen, Marika | Sandholt, Camilla Helene | Holzapfel, Christina | Autenrieth, Christine S. | Hyppönen, Elina | Cauchi, Stéphane | He, Meian | Kutalik, Zoltan | Kumari, Meena | Stančáková, Alena | Meidtner, Karina | Balkau, Beverley | Tan, Jonathan T. | Mangino, Massimo | Timpson, Nicholas J. | Song, Yiqing | Zillikens, M. Carola | Jablonski, Kathleen A. | Garcia, Melissa E. | Johansson, Stefan | Bragg-Gresham, Jennifer L. | Wu, Ying | van Vliet-Ostaptchouk, Jana V. | Onland-Moret, N. Charlotte | Zimmermann, Esther | Rivera, Natalia V. | Tanaka, Toshiko | Stringham, Heather M. | Silbernagel, Günther | Kanoni, Stavroula | Feitosa, Mary F. | Snitker, Soren | Ruiz, Jonatan R. | Metter, Jeffery | Larrad, Maria Teresa Martinez | Atalay, Mustafa | Hakanen, Maarit | Amin, Najaf | Cavalcanti-Proença, Christine | Grøntved, Anders | Hallmans, Göran | Jansson, John-Olov | Kuusisto, Johanna | Kähönen, Mika | Lutsey, Pamela L. | Nolan, John J. | Palla, Luigi | Pedersen, Oluf | Pérusse, Louis | Renström, Frida | Scott, Robert A. | Shungin, Dmitry | Sovio, Ulla | Tammelin, Tuija H. | Rönnemaa, Tapani | Lakka, Timo A. | Uusitupa, Matti | Rios, Manuel Serrano | Ferrucci, Luigi | Bouchard, Claude | Meirhaeghe, Aline | Fu, Mao | Walker, Mark | Borecki, Ingrid B. | Dedoussis, George V. | Fritsche, Andreas | Ohlsson, Claes | Boehnke, Michael | Bandinelli, Stefania | van Duijn, Cornelia M. | Ebrahim, Shah | Lawlor, Debbie A. | Gudnason, Vilmundur | Harris, Tamara B. | Sørensen, Thorkild I. A. | Mohlke, Karen L. | Hofman, Albert | Uitterlinden, André G. | Tuomilehto, Jaakko | Lehtimäki, Terho | Raitakari, Olli | Isomaa, Bo | Njølstad, Pål R. | Florez, Jose C. | Liu, Simin | Ness, Andy | Spector, Timothy D. | Tai, E. Shyong | Froguel, Philippe | Boeing, Heiner | Laakso, Markku | Marmot, Michael | Bergmann, Sven | Power, Chris | Khaw, Kay-Tee | Chasman, Daniel | Ridker, Paul | Hansen, Torben | Monda, Keri L. | Illig, Thomas | Järvelin, Marjo-Riitta | Wareham, Nicholas J. | Hu, Frank B. | Groop, Leif C. | Orho-Melander, Marju | Ekelund, Ulf | Franks, Paul W. | Loos, Ruth J. F.
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001116.
Ruth Loos and colleagues report findings from a meta-analysis of multiple studies examining the extent to which physical activity attenuates effects of a specific gene variant, FTO, on obesity in adults and children. They report a fairly substantial attenuation by physical activity on the effects of this genetic variant on the risk of obesity in adults.
Background
The FTO gene harbors the strongest known susceptibility locus for obesity. While many individual studies have suggested that physical activity (PA) may attenuate the effect of FTO on obesity risk, other studies have not been able to confirm this interaction. To confirm or refute unambiguously whether PA attenuates the association of FTO with obesity risk, we meta-analyzed data from 45 studies of adults (n = 218,166) and nine studies of children and adolescents (n = 19,268).
Methods and Findings
All studies identified to have data on the FTO rs9939609 variant (or any proxy [r2>0.8]) and PA were invited to participate, regardless of ethnicity or age of the participants. PA was standardized by categorizing it into a dichotomous variable (physically inactive versus active) in each study. Overall, 25% of adults and 13% of children were categorized as inactive. Interaction analyses were performed within each study by including the FTO×PA interaction term in an additive model, adjusting for age and sex. Subsequently, random effects meta-analysis was used to pool the interaction terms. In adults, the minor (A−) allele of rs9939609 increased the odds of obesity by 1.23-fold/allele (95% CI 1.20–1.26), but PA attenuated this effect (pinteraction  = 0.001). More specifically, the minor allele of rs9939609 increased the odds of obesity less in the physically active group (odds ratio  = 1.22/allele, 95% CI 1.19–1.25) than in the inactive group (odds ratio  = 1.30/allele, 95% CI 1.24–1.36). No such interaction was found in children and adolescents.
Conclusions
The association of the FTO risk allele with the odds of obesity is attenuated by 27% in physically active adults, highlighting the importance of PA in particular in those genetically predisposed to obesity.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
Two in three Americans are overweight, of whom half are obese, and the trend towards increasing obesity is now seen across developed and developing countries. There has long been interest in understanding the impact of genes and environment when it comes to apportioning responsibility for obesity. Carrying a change in the FTO gene is common (found in three-quarters of Europeans and North Americans) and is associated with a 20%–30% increased risk of obesity. Some overweight or obese individuals may feel that the dice are loaded and there is little point in fighting the fat; it has been reported that those made aware of their genetic susceptibility to obesity may still choose a poor diet. A similar fatalism may occur when overweight and obese people consider physical activity. But disentangling the influence of physical activity on those genetically susceptible to obesity from other factors that might impact weight is not straightforward, as it requires large sample sizes, could be subject to publication bias, and may rely on less than ideal self-reporting methods.
Why Was This Study Done?
The public health ramifications of understanding the interaction between genetic susceptibility to obesity and physical activity are considerable. Tackling the rising prevalence of obesity will inevitably include interventions principally aimed at changing dietary intake and/or increasing physical activity, but the evidence for these with regards to those genetically susceptible has been lacking to date. The authors of this paper set out to explore the interaction between the commonest genetic susceptibility trait and physical activity using a rigorous meta-analysis of a large number of studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors were concerned that a meta-analysis of published studies would be limited both by the data available to them and by possible bias. Instead of this more widely used approach, they took the literature search as their starting point, identified other studies through their collaborators’ network, and then undertook a meta-analysis of all available studies using a new and standardized analysis plan. This entailed an extremely large number of authors mining their data afresh to extract the relevant data points to enable such a meta-analysis. Physical activity was identified in the original studies in many different ways, including by self-report or by using an external measure of activity or heart rate. In order to perform the meta-analysis, participants were labeled as physically active or inactive in each study. For studies that had used a continuous scale, the authors decided that the bottom 20% of the participants were inactive (10% for children and adolescents). Using data from over 218,000 adults, the authors found that carrying a copy of the susceptibility gene increased the odds of obesity by 1.23-fold. But the size of this influence was 27% less in the genetically susceptible adults who were physically active (1.22-fold) compared to those who were physically inactive (1.30-fold). In a smaller study of about 19,000 children, no such effect of physical activity was seen.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study demonstrates that people who carry the susceptibility gene for obesity can benefit from physical activity. This should inform health care professionals and the wider public that the view of genetically determined obesity not being amenable to exercise is incorrect and should be challenged. Dissemination, implementation, and ensuring uptake of effective physical activity programs remains a challenge and deserves further consideration. That the researchers treated “physically active” as a yes/no category, and how they categorized individuals, could be criticized, but this was done for pragmatic reasons, as a variety of means of assessing physical activity were used across the studies. It is unlikely that the findings would have changed if the authors had used a different method of defining physically active. Most of the studies included in the meta-analysis looked at one time point only; information about the influence of physical activity on weight changes over time in genetically susceptible individuals is only beginning to emerge.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001116.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Lennert Veerman
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides obesity-related statistics, details of prevention programs, and an overview on public health strategy in the United States
A more worldwide view is given by the World Health Organization
The UK National Health Service website gives information on physical activity guidelines for different age groups, while similar information can also be found from US sources
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001116
PMCID: PMC3206047  PMID: 22069379

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