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1.  Preconceptional Folate Supplementation and the Risk of Spontaneous Preterm Birth: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(5):e1000061.
In an analysis of a cohort of pregnant women, Radek Bukowski and colleagues describe an association between taking folic acid supplements and a reduction in the risk of preterm birth.
Background
Low plasma folate concentrations in pregnancy are associated with preterm birth. Here we show an association between preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
In a cohort of 34,480 low-risk singleton pregnancies enrolled in a study of aneuploidy risk, preconceptional folate supplementation was prospectively recorded in the first trimester of pregnancy. Duration of pregnancy was estimated based on first trimester ultrasound examination. Natural length of pregnancy was defined as gestational age at delivery in pregnancies with no medical or obstetrical complications that may have constituted an indication for delivery. Spontaneous preterm birth was defined as duration of pregnancy between 20 and 37 wk without those complications. The association between preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth was evaluated using survival analysis. Comparing to no supplementation, preconceptional folate supplementation for 1 y or longer was associated with a 70% decrease in the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 20 and 28 wk (41 [0.27%] versus 4 [0.04%] spontaneous preterm births, respectively; HR 0.22, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.08–0.61, p = 0.004) and a 50% decrease in the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 28 and 32 wk (58 [0.38%] versus 12 [0.18%] preterm birth, respectively; HR 0.45, 95% CI 0.24–0.83, p = 0.010). Adjustment for maternal characteristics age, race, body mass index, education, marital status, smoking, parity, and history of prior preterm birth did not have a material effect on the association between folate supplementation for 1 y or longer and spontaneous preterm birth between 20 and 28, and 28 to 32 wk (adjusted HR 0.31, 95% CI 0.11–0.90, p = 0.031 and 0.53, 0.28–0.99, p = 0.046, respectively). Preconceptional folate supplementation was not significantly associated with the risk of spontaneous preterm birth beyond 32 wk. The association between shorter duration (<1 y) of preconceptional folate supplementation and the risk of spontaneous preterm birth was not significant after adjustment for maternal characteristics. However, the risk of spontaneous preterm birth decreased with the duration of preconceptional folate supplementation (test for trend of survivor functions, p = 0.01) and was the lowest in women who used folate supplementation for 1 y or longer. There was also no significant association with other complications of pregnancy studied after adjustment for maternal characteristics.
Conclusions
Preconceptional folate supplementation is associated with a 50%–70% reduction in the incidence of early spontaneous preterm birth. The risk of early spontaneous preterm birth is inversely proportional to the duration of preconceptional folate supplementation. Preconceptional folate supplementation was specifically related to early spontaneous preterm birth and not associated with other complications of pregnancy.
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks, but sometimes the new family member arrives early. Every year, half a million babies in the United States (12.5% of all babies) are born prematurely (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Sadly, premature babies are more likely to die than full-term babies and many have short- and/or long-term health problems. Premature babies often have breathing problems, they are susceptible to life-threatening infections, and they are more likely to have learning and developmental disabilities than those born on time. The severity of these health problems depends on the degree of prematurity—preterm babies born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy rarely develop severe disabilities, but a quarter of babies born before 28 weeks of pregnancy develop serious lasting disabilities and half have learning and behavioral problems. Although doctors have identified some risk factors for early delivery (for example, smoking), it is impossible to predict who will have an early birth and there is no effective way to prevent preterm births.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some researchers think that folate supplements may prevent preterm births. Folate (folic acid), a vitamin found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and dried beans, helps to prevent neural tube birth defects. Consequently, women are encouraged to take folic acid supplements throughout (and preferably before) pregnancy and many governments now mandate that bread, pasta, and other grain products be fortified with folic acid to help women get sufficient folate. There is some evidence that women who deliver early have less folate in their blood than women who deliver at term. Furthermore, folate supplementation during pregnancy has increased the length of pregnancy in some but not all clinical trials. A possible explanation for these mixed results is that the duration of pregnancy reflects conditions in the earliest stages of pregnancy or before conception and that folate supplementation needs to start before conception to reduce the risk of preterm birth. In this study, the researchers test this idea by analyzing data collected from nearly 35,000 pregnant women enrolled in a study that was originally designed to investigate screening for Down's syndrome.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
During the first three months of their pregnancy, the women were asked whether they had taken folate supplements before conception. The duration of each pregnancy was estimated from ultrasound measurements taken early in the pregnancy and from the time of delivery. During the study, 1,658 women had spontaneous preterm deliveries before 37 weeks and 160 delivered before 32 weeks. After allowing for other maternal characteristics that might have affected the likelihood of preterm delivery, the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery between 20 and 28 weeks was 70% lower in women who took folate supplements for more than a year before becoming pregnant than in women who didn't take a supplement. Long-term folate supplementation also reduced the risk of preterm delivery between 28 and 32 weeks by 50% but did not affect the risk of preterm birth beyond 32 weeks. Folate supplementation for less than a year before conception did not reduce the risk of preterm birth, and folate supplementation was not associated with any other complications of pregnancy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that folate supplementation for a year or more before conception is associated with a 50%–70% decrease in early (but not late) spontaneous preterm births and that the longer a woman takes folate supplements before becoming pregnant, the lower her risk of a preterm birth. Although the researchers allowed for maternal characteristics that might have affected the duration of pregnancy, it is possible that folate supplementation may not be responsible for the reduction in preterm birth risk seen in this study. For example, taking folate supplements may be a marker of healthy behavior and the women taking the supplements might have been doing something else that was reducing their risk of preterm birth. However, despite this and other limitations of this study, these findings suggest that long-term folate supplementation before conception is worth investigating further as a potential way to prevent preterm births.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000061.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Nicholas Fisk
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on premature babies (in English and Spanish); MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development provides information on preterm labor and birth
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth and on folic acid (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US Office of Dietary Supplements has a fact sheet on folate
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000061
PMCID: PMC2671168  PMID: 19434228
2.  The Effect of Intermittent Antenatal Iron Supplementation on Maternal and Infant Outcomes in Rural Viet Nam: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(6):e1001470.
Beverley-Anne Biggs and colleagues conduct a community-based cluster randomized trial in rural Viet Nam to compare the effect of antenatal iron-folic acid supplementation taken daily or twice weekly on maternal and infant outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Anemia affects over 500 million women, and in pregnancy is associated with impaired maternal and infant outcomes. Intermittent antenatal iron supplementation is an attractive alternative to daily dosing; however, the impact of this strategy on infant outcomes remains unclear. We compared the effect of intermittent antenatal iron supplementation with daily iron supplementation on maternal and infant outcomes in rural Viet Nam.
Methods and Findings
This cluster randomised trial was conducted in Ha Nam province, Viet Nam. 1,258 pregnant women (<16 wk gestation) in 104 communes were assigned to daily iron–folic acid (IFA), twice weekly IFA, or twice weekly multiple micronutrient (MMN) supplementation. Primary outcome was birth weight. Mean birth weight was 3,148 g (standard deviation 416). There was no difference in the birth weights of infants of women receiving twice weekly IFA compared to daily IFA (mean difference [MD] 28 g; 95% CI −22 to 78), or twice weekly MMN compared to daily IFA (MD −36.8 g; 95% CI −82 to 8.2). At 32 wk gestation, maternal ferritin was lower in women receiving twice weekly IFA compared to daily IFA (geometric mean ratio 0.73; 95% CI 0.67 to 0.80), and in women receiving twice weekly MMN compared to daily IFA (geometric mean ratio 0.62; 95% CI 0.57 to 0.68), but there was no difference in hemoglobin levels. Infants of mothers who received twice weekly IFA had higher cognitive scores at 6 mo of age compared to those who received daily IFA (MD 1.89; 95% CI 0.23 to 3.56).
Conclusions
Twice weekly antenatal IFA or MMN did not produce a clinically important difference in birth weight, when compared to daily IFA supplementation. The significant improvement in infant cognitive outcomes at 6 mo of age following twice weekly antenatal IFA requires further exploration, and provides additional support for the use of intermittent, rather than daily, antenatal IFA in populations with low rates of iron deficiency.
Trial registration
Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry 12610000944033
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Anemia is a common condition in which the blood does not supply the body with enough oxygen because of a low number of red blood cells or low levels of hemoglobin—the iron-containing pigment that enables red blood cells to carry oxygen. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia worldwide and, according to the World Health Organization, affects over 2 billion people: half of all pregnant women and 40% of preschool children in low- and middle-income countries are thought to be anemic. Anemia contributes to 20% of all maternal deaths and is also linked to increased maternal morbidity, higher rates of preterm birth and low birth weight, and reduced infant survival, with potential long-term consequences for child growth and development. Identifying and treating iron deficiency anemia is therefore a global health priority.
Why Was This Study Done?
Daily iron–folic acid supplementation given from early in pregnancy is the standard recommended approach to prevent and treat anemia in pregnant women, but recently the World Health Organization recommended intermittent use because of poor compliance with daily regimes (because of side effects) and poor bowel absorption. However, the evidence from many of the studies used to support this recommendation was of poor quality, and so it remains unclear whether intermittent supplementation is as, or more, effective than daily supplementation, especially in lower income settings where antenatal testing for anemia is not readily available. So in this study, the researchers conducted a community-based cluster randomized trial (where groups of people are randomized, rather than individuals) in rural Viet Nam to compare the effect of antenatal iron–folic acid supplementation taken twice weekly (either alone, or in combination with other micronutrients) with daily iron–folic acid supplementation, on maternal and infant outcomes during the first six months of life.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomized 104 communes in Ha Nam Province, Viet Nam, and enrolled 1,258 women who were less than 16 weeks pregnant into the study between September and November 2010. Although the researchers intended to register the trial before the study started, registration was delayed by a month because the supplements arrived earlier than the researchers anticipated, and they thought it best to start recruiting at that time to avoid the Vietnamese New Year, when women might be travelling. Each woman was interviewed and had blood taken for hemoglobin and iron indices (ferritin) before receiving daily iron–folic acid supplementation (426 women), twice weekly iron–folic acid supplementation (425 women), or twice weekly iron–folic acid supplementation plus micronutrients (407 women). The women had follow-up assessments at 32 weeks gestation, delivery, and at six months postpartum: their infants were assessed at birth and at six months old.
The researchers found that at enrollment, the women's average hemoglobin concentration was 123 g/l, and 12.6% of the women were anemic. At 32 weeks gestation, 10.8% of the women were anemic, but there was no difference in hemoglobin levels between the three supplement groups. The average ferritin level was 75.6 µg/l at enrollment, with 2.2% of women iron deficient. Ferritin levels decreased from enrollment to 32 weeks gestation in all supplement groups but were lower in women who took twice weekly supplements. The researchers also found that birth weight (the primary outcome) was similar in all supplement groups, and there were also no differences in gestational age or in the risk of prematurity, stillbirth, or early neonatal death. At six months, there were also no differences in the levels of infant hemoglobin, prevalence of anemia, or growth rates. However, infants born to mothers in the twice weekly iron–folic acid group had improved cognitive development compared to infants born to mothers in the daily supplement group. Finally, the researchers found that adherence rates were significantly higher in the twice weekly iron–folic acid supplement group compared to the once daily regime.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that in an area of Southeast Asia with low anemia prevalence, once daily antenatal supplementation with iron–folic acid did not provide any benefits in birth weight or improved infant growth over twice weekly supplementation. Furthermore, twice weekly supplementation with iron–folic acid was associated with improved maternal adherence rates and also improved cognitive development in infants aged six months—a finding that requires further study and provides added support for the use of intermittent iron–folic acid supplementation over daily supplementation.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001470.
The World Health Organization website has comprehensive information on anemia, including a report of global estimates and the guideline Intermittent Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation in Non-Anaemic Pregnant Women
Wikipedia provides information on iron supplementation (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001470
PMCID: PMC3708703  PMID: 23853552
3.  Risk of pre-eclampsia in first and subsequent pregnancies: prospective cohort study 
Objective To investigate whether pre-eclampsia is more common in first pregnancies solely because fewer affected women, who presumably have a higher risk of recurrence, go on to have subsequent pregnancies.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Swedish Medical Birth Register.
Participants 763 795 primiparous mothers who had their first births in Sweden, 1987-2004.
Main outcome measures Pre-eclampsia.
Results The risk of pre-eclampsia was 4.1% in the first pregnancy and 1.7% in later pregnancies overall. However, the risk was 14.7% in the second pregnancy for women who had had pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy and 31.9% for women who had had pre-eclampsia in the previous two pregnancies. The risk for multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia was around 1%. The incidence of pre-eclampsia associated with delivery before 34 weeks’ gestation was 0.42% in primiparous women, 0.11% in multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia, and 6.8% and 12.5% in women who had had one or two previous pregnancies affected, respectively. The proportion of women who went on to have a further pregnancy was 4-5% lower after having a pregnancy with any pre-eclampsia but over 10% lower if pre-eclampsia was associated with very preterm delivery. The estimated risk of pre-eclampsia in parous women did not change with standardisation for pregnancy rates.
Conclusions Having pre-eclampsia in one pregnancy is a poor predictor of subsequent pregnancy but a strong predictor for recurrence of pre-eclampsia in future gestations. The lower overall risk of pre-eclampsia among parous women was not explained by fewer conceptions among women who had had pre-eclampsia in a previous gestation. Early onset pre-eclampsia might be associated with a reduced likelihood of a future pregnancy and with more recurrences than late onset pre-eclampsia when there are further pregnancies. Findings are consistent with the existence of two distinct conditions: a severe recurrent early onset type affected by chronic factors, genetic or environmental, and a milder sporadic form affected by transient factors.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b2255
PMCID: PMC3269902  PMID: 19541696
4.  Risk of pre-eclampsia in first and subsequent pregnancies: prospective cohort study 
The BMJ  2009;338:b2255.
Objective To investigate whether pre-eclampsia is more common in first pregnancies solely because fewer affected women, who presumably have a higher risk of recurrence, go on to have subsequent pregnancies.
Design Prospective cohort study.
Setting Swedish Medical Birth Register.
Participants 763 795 primiparous mothers who had their first births in Sweden, 1987-2004.
Main outcome measures Pre-eclampsia.
Results The risk of pre-eclampsia was 4.1% in the first pregnancy and 1.7% in later pregnancies overall. However, the risk was 14.7% in the second pregnancy for women who had had pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy and 31.9% for women who had had pre-eclampsia in the previous two pregnancies. The risk for multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia was around 1%. The incidence of pre-eclampsia associated with delivery before 34 weeks’ gestation was 0.42% in primiparous women, 0.11% in multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia, and 6.8% and 12.5% in women who had had one or two previous pregnancies affected, respectively. The proportion of women who went on to have a further pregnancy was 4-5% lower after having a pregnancy with any pre-eclampsia but over 10% lower if pre-eclampsia was associated with very preterm delivery. The estimated risk of pre-eclampsia in parous women did not change with standardisation for pregnancy rates.
Conclusions Having pre-eclampsia in one pregnancy is a poor predictor of subsequent pregnancy but a strong predictor for recurrence of pre-eclampsia in future gestations. The lower overall risk of pre-eclampsia among parous women was not explained by fewer conceptions among women who had had pre-eclampsia in a previous gestation. Early onset pre-eclampsia might be associated with a reduced likelihood of a future pregnancy and with more recurrences than late onset pre-eclampsia when there are further pregnancies. Findings are consistent with the existence of two distinct conditions: a severe recurrent early onset type affected by chronic factors, genetic or environmental, and a milder sporadic form affected by transient factors.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b2255
PMCID: PMC3269902  PMID: 19541696
5.  The effects of vitamin C supplementation on pre-eclampsia in Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda: a randomized placebo controlled clinical trial 
Background
Oxidative stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of pre-eclampsia. Supplementing women with antioxidants during pregnancy may reduce oxidative stress and thereby prevent or delay the onset pre-eclampsia. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of supplementing vitamin C in pregnancy on the incidence of pre-eclampsia, at Mulago hospital, Kampala, Uganda.
Methods
This was a (parallel, balanced randomization, 1:1) placebo randomized controlled trial conducted at Mulago hospital, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Participants included in this study were pregnant women aged 15-42 years, who lived 15 km or less from the hospital with gestational ages between 12-22 weeks. The women were randomized to take 1000mg of vitamin C (as ascorbic acid) or a placebo daily until they delivered. The primary outcome was pre-eclamsia. Secondary outcomes were: severe pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, preterm delivery, low birth weight and still birth delivery. Participants were 932 pregnant women randomized into one of the two treatment arms in a ratio of 1:1. The participants, the care providers and those assessing the outcomes were blinded to the study allocation.
Results
Of the 932 women recruited; 466 were randomized to the vitamin and 466 to the placebo group. Recruitment of participants was from November 2011 to June 2012 and follow up was up to January 2013. Outcome data was available 415 women in the vitamin group and 418 women in the placebo group.
There were no differences in vitamin and placebo groups in the incidence of pre-eclampsia (3.1% versus 4.1%; RR 0.77; 95% CI: 0.37-1.56), severe pre-eclampsia (1.2% versus 1.0%; RR 1.25; 95% CI: 0.34-4.65), gestational hypertension(7.7% versus 11.5%; RR 0.67; 95% CI: 0.43-1.03), preterm delivery (11.3% versus 12.2%; RR 0.92; 95% CI: 0.63-1.34), low birth weight (11.1% versus 10.3%; RR 1.07; 95% CI: 0.72-1.59) and still birth delivery (4.6% versus 4.5%; RR 1.01; 95% CI: 0.54-1.87).
Conclusions
Supplementation with vitamin C did not reduce the incidence of pre-eclampsia nor did it reduce the adverse maternal or neonatal outcomes. We do not recommend the use of vitamin C in pregnancy to prevent pre-eclampsia.
Trial registration
This study was registered at the Pan African Clinical Trial Registry, PACTR201210000418271 on 25th October 2012.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-283
PMCID: PMC4150937  PMID: 25142305
6.  The Effect of Changing Patterns of Obstetric Care in Scotland (1980–2004) on Rates of Preterm Birth and Its Neonatal Consequences: Perinatal Database Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(9):e1000153.
Jane Norman and colleagues analyzed linked perinatal surveillance data in Scotland and find that between 1980 and 2004 increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births.
Background
Rates of preterm birth are rising worldwide. Studies from the United States and Latin America suggest that much of this rise relates to increased rates of medically indicated preterm birth. In contrast, European and Australian data suggest that increases in spontaneous preterm labour also play a role. We aimed, in a population-based database of 5 million people, to determine the temporal trends and obstetric antecedents of singleton preterm birth and its associated neonatal mortality and morbidity for the period 1980–2004.
Methods and Findings
There were 1.49 million births in Scotland over the study period, of which 5.8% were preterm. We found a percentage increase in crude rates of both spontaneous preterm birth per 1,000 singleton births (10.7%, p<0.01) and medically indicated preterm births (41.2%, p<0.01), which persisted when adjusted for maternal age at delivery. The greater proportion of spontaneous preterm births meant that the absolute increase in rates of preterm birth in each category were similar. Of specific maternal complications, essential and pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and placenta praevia played a decreasing role in preterm birth over the study period, with gestational and pre-existing diabetes playing an increasing role. There was a decline in stillbirth, neonatal, and extended perinatal mortality associated with preterm birth at all gestation over the study period but an increase in the rate of prolonged hospital stay for the neonate. Neonatal mortality improved in all subgroups, regardless of obstetric antecedent of preterm birth or gestational age. In the 28 wk and greater gestational groups we found a reduction in stillbirths and extended perinatal mortality for medically induced but not spontaneous preterm births (in the absence of maternal complications) although at the expense of a longer stay in neonatal intensive care. This improvement in stillbirth and neonatal mortality supports the decision making behind the 34% increase in elective/induced preterm birth in these women. Although improvements in neonatal outcomes overall are welcome, preterm birth still accounts for over 66% of singleton stillbirths, 65% of singleton neonatal deaths, and 67% of infants whose stay in the neonatal unit is “prolonged,” suggesting this condition remains a significant contributor to perinatal mortality and morbidity.
Conclusions
In our population, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births have made equal contributions to the rising rate of preterm birth. Despite improvements in related perinatal mortality, preterm birth remains a major obstetric and neonatal problem, and its frequency is increasing.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks but increasing numbers of babies are being born preterm, before they reach 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother). Nowadays in the US, for example, more than half a million babies arrive earlier than expected every year (1 in 8 babies). Although improvements in the care of newborn babies (neonatal care) mean that preterm babies are more likely to survive than in the past, preterm birth remains the single biggest cause of infant death in many developed countries, and many preterm babies who survive have long-term health problems and disabilities, particularly those born before 32 weeks of gestation. Preterm births can be spontaneous or medically induced. At present, it impossible to predict which mothers will spontaneously deliver early and there is no effective way to prevent these preterm births; medically induced early labor is undertaken when either the unborn baby or mother would be at risk if the pregnancy continued to full term.
Why Was This Study Done?
Preterm birth rates need to be reduced, but before this can be done it is important to know how the causes of preterm birth, the numbers of preterm stillbirths, and the numbers of preterm babies who die at birth (neonatal deaths) or soon after (perinatal deaths) are changing with time. If, for example, the rise in preterm births is mainly due to an increase in medically induced labor and if this change in practice has reduced neonatal deaths, it would be unwise to try to reduce the preterm birth rate by discouraging medically induced preterm births. So far, data from the US and Latin America suggest that the increase in preterm births in these countries is solely due to increased rates of medically induced preterm births. However, in Europe and Australia, the rate of spontaneous preterm births also seems to be increasing. In this study, the researchers examine the trends over time and causes of preterm birth and of neonatal death and illness in Scotland over a 25-year period.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By searching a Scottish database of linked maternity records and infant health and death records, the researchers identified 1.49 million singleton births that occurred between 1980 and 2004 of which nearly 90,000 were preterm births. Over the study period, the rates of spontaneous and of medically induced preterm births per 1,000 births increased by 10.7% and 41.2%, respectively, but because there were more spontaneous preterm births than medically induced preterm births, the absolute increase in the rates of each type of birth was similar. Several maternal complications including preeclampsia (a condition that causes high blood pressure) and placenta previa (covering of the opening of the cervix by the placenta) played a decreasing role in preterm births over the study period, whereas gestational and preexisting diabetes played an increasing role. Finally, there was a decline in stillbirths and in neonatal and perinatal deaths among preterm babies, although more babies remained in the hospital longer than 7 days after birth. More specifically, after 28 weeks of gestation, stillbirths and perinatal deaths decreased among medically induced preterm births but not among spontaneous preterm births.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that in Scotland between 1980 and 2004, increases in spontaneous and medically induced preterm births contributed equally to the rising rate of preterm births. Importantly, they also show that the increase in induced preterm births helped to reduce stillbirths and neonatal and perinatal deaths, a finding that supports the criteria that clinicians currently use to decide whether to induce an early birth. Nevertheless, preterm births still account for two-thirds of all stillbirths, neonatal deaths, and extended neonatal stays in hospital and thus cause considerable suffering and greatly increase the workload in neonatal units. The rates of such births consequently need to be reduced and, for Scotland at least, ways will have to be found to reduce the rates of both spontaneous and induced preterm births to achieve this goal while continuing to identify those sick babies who need to be delivered early to give them the best chance of survival.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000153
Tommys is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on maternal and infant health (in English and Spanish)
The US National Women's Health Information Center has detailed information about pregnancy, including a section on pregnancy complications
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies and to information on pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000153
PMCID: PMC2740823  PMID: 19771156
7.  Cardiovascular mortality after pre-eclampsia in one child mothers: prospective, population based cohort study 
Objective To assess the association of pre-eclampsia with later cardiovascular death in mothers according to their lifetime number of pregnancies, and particularly after only one child.
Design Prospective, population based cohort study.
Setting Medical Birth Registry of Norway.
Participants We followed 836 147 Norwegian women with a first singleton birth between 1967 and 2002 for cardiovascular mortality through linkage to the national Cause of Death Registry. About 23 000 women died by 2009, of whom 3891 died from cardiovascular causes. Associations between pre-eclampsia and cardiovascular death were assessed by hazard ratios, estimated by Cox regression analyses. Hazard ratios were adjusted for maternal education (three categories), maternal age at first birth, and year of first birth
Results The rate of cardiovascular mortality among women with preterm pre-eclampsia was 9.2% after having only one child, falling to 1.1% for those with two or more children. With term pre-eclampsia, the rates were 2.8% and 1.1%, respectively. Women with pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy had higher rates of cardiovascular death than those who did not have the condition at first birth (adjusted hazard ratio 1.6 (95% confidence interval 1.4 to 2.0) after term pre-eclampsia; 3.7 (2.7 to 4.8) after preterm pre-eclampsia). Among women with only one lifetime pregnancy, the increase in risk of cardiovascular death was higher than for those with two or more children (3.4 (2.6 to 4.6) after term pre-eclampsia; 9.4 (6.5 to 13.7) after preterm pre-eclampsia). The risk of cardiovascular death was only moderately elevated among women with pre-eclamptic first pregnancies who went on to have additional children (1.5 (1.2 to 2.0) after term pre-eclampsia; 2.4 (1.5 to 3.9) after preterm pre-eclampsia). There was little evidence of additional risk after recurrent pre-eclampsia. All cause mortality for women with two or more lifetime births, who had pre-eclampsia in first pregnancy, was not elevated, even with preterm pre-eclampsia in first pregnancy (1.1 (0.87 to 1.14)).
Conclusions Cardiovascular death in women with pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy is concentrated mainly in women with no additional births. This association might be due to health problems that discourage or prevent further pregnancies rather than to pre-eclampsia itself. As a screening criterion for cardiovascular disease risk, pre-eclampsia is a strong predictor primarily among women with only one child—particularly with preterm pre-eclampsia.
doi:10.1136/bmj.e7677
PMCID: PMC3508198  PMID: 23186909
8.  Cardiovascular mortality after pre-eclampsia in one child mothers: prospective, population based cohort study 
The BMJ  2012;345:e7677.
Objective To assess the association of pre-eclampsia with later cardiovascular death in mothers according to their lifetime number of pregnancies, and particularly after only one child.
Design Prospective, population based cohort study.
Setting Medical Birth Registry of Norway.
Participants We followed 836 147 Norwegian women with a first singleton birth between 1967 and 2002 for cardiovascular mortality through linkage to the national Cause of Death Registry. About 23 000 women died by 2009, of whom 3891 died from cardiovascular causes. Associations between pre-eclampsia and cardiovascular death were assessed by hazard ratios, estimated by Cox regression analyses. Hazard ratios were adjusted for maternal education (three categories), maternal age at first birth, and year of first birth
Results The rate of cardiovascular mortality among women with preterm pre-eclampsia was 9.2% after having only one child, falling to 1.1% for those with two or more children. With term pre-eclampsia, the rates were 2.8% and 1.1%, respectively. Women with pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy had higher rates of cardiovascular death than those who did not have the condition at first birth (adjusted hazard ratio 1.6 (95% confidence interval 1.4 to 2.0) after term pre-eclampsia; 3.7 (2.7 to 4.8) after preterm pre-eclampsia). Among women with only one lifetime pregnancy, the increase in risk of cardiovascular death was higher than for those with two or more children (3.4 (2.6 to 4.6) after term pre-eclampsia; 9.4 (6.5 to 13.7) after preterm pre-eclampsia). The risk of cardiovascular death was only moderately elevated among women with pre-eclamptic first pregnancies who went on to have additional children (1.5 (1.2 to 2.0) after term pre-eclampsia; 2.4 (1.5 to 3.9) after preterm pre-eclampsia). There was little evidence of additional risk after recurrent pre-eclampsia. All cause mortality for women with two or more lifetime births, who had pre-eclampsia in first pregnancy, was not elevated, even with preterm pre-eclampsia in first pregnancy (1.1 (0.87 to 1.14)).
Conclusions Cardiovascular death in women with pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy is concentrated mainly in women with no additional births. This association might be due to health problems that discourage or prevent further pregnancies rather than to pre-eclampsia itself. As a screening criterion for cardiovascular disease risk, pre-eclampsia is a strong predictor primarily among women with only one child—particularly with preterm pre-eclampsia.
doi:10.1136/bmj.e7677
PMCID: PMC3508198  PMID: 23186909
9.  Population-based trends in pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia: an international comparative study 
BMJ Open  2011;1(1):e000101.
Objective
The objective of this study was to compare international trends in pre-eclampsia rates and in overall pregnancy hypertension rates (including gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia).
Design
Population data (from birth and/or hospital records) on all women giving birth were available from Australia (two states), Canada (Alberta), Denmark, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and the USA (Massachusetts) for a minimum of 6 years from 1997 to 2007. All countries used the 10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, except Massachusetts which used the 9th revision. There were no major changes to the diagnostic criteria or methods of data collection in any country during the study period. Population characteristics as well as rates of pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia were compared.
Results
Absolute rates varied across the populations as follows: pregnancy hypertension (3.6% to 9.1%), pre-eclampsia (1.4% to 4.0%) and early-onset pre-eclampsia (0.3% to 0.7%). Pregnancy hypertension and/or pre-eclampsia rates declined over time in most populations. This was unexpected given that factors associated with pregnancy hypertension such as pre-pregnancy obesity and maternal age are generally increasing. However, there was also a downward shift in gestational age with fewer pregnancies reaching 40 weeks.
Conclusion
The rate of pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia decreased in northern Europe and Australia from 1997 to 2007, but increased in Massachusetts. The use of a different International Classification of Diseases coding version in Massachusetts may contribute to the difference in trend. Elective delivery prior to the due date is the most likely explanation for the decrease observed in Europe and Australia. Also, the use of interventions that reduce the risk of pregnancy hypertension and/or progression to pre-eclampsia (low-dose aspirin, calcium supplementation and early delivery for mild hypertension) may have contributed to the decline.
Article summary
Article focus
The population prevalence of factors associated with increased and decreased risk of pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia has changed over time, but the impact of these changes is unknown.
International comparisons of absolute population rates of pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia are hindered by different diagnostic criteria and methods of data collection.
Comparing trends between countries overcomes the difficulties in comparing absolute rates.
Key message
Pregnancy hypertension and/or pre-eclampsia rates declined over time in northern Europe and Australia, but not Massachusetts (USA).
Declining hypertension rates were accompanied by a downward shift in gestational age with fewer pregnancies reaching term, the time when the pregnancy hypertension and pre-eclampsia are most likely to occur.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Strengths include numerous validation studies indicating that the hypertensive disorders are reliably reported in the population data sets used for the study and the consistency of trends across most countries.
Limitations include a different International Classification of Diseases coding version in Massachusetts and lack of available information on clinical interventions.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000101
PMCID: PMC3191437  PMID: 22021762
Trends; pregnancy; pre-eclampsia; gestational hypertension; international classification of diseases; maternal medicine; obstetrics; hypertension; epidemiology; statistics; epidmiology; delivery; birth; infant mortality; information; public health; health economics; health policy; international health services; quality in healthcare; health and socio-economic inequalities; maternal and child health; statistics and research methods; parturition; preterm birth
10.  Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and hypertension 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:1402.
Introduction
Pre-eclampsia (raised blood pressure and proteinuria) complicates 2% to 8% of pregnancies, and increases morbidity and mortality in the mother and child. Pre-eclampsia is more common in women with multiple pregnancy and in those who have conditions associated with microvascular disease.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of preventive interventions in women at risk of pre-eclampsia? What are the effects of interventions in women who develop mild to moderate hypertension during pregnancy? What are the effects of interventions in women who develop severe pre-eclampsia or very high blood pressure during pregnancy? What is the best choice of anticonvulsant for women with eclampsia? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to February 2010 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 69 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: anticonvulsants, antihypertensive drugs, antioxidants, antiplatelet drugs, atenolol, bed rest, hospital admission, or day care, calcium supplementation, choice of analgesia during labour, early delivery (interventionist care), evening primrose oil, fish oil, glyceryl trinitrate, magnesium supplementation, plasma volume expansion, and salt restriction.
Key Points
Pre-eclampsia (raised blood pressure and proteinuria) complicates 2% to 8% of pregnancies, and increases morbidity and mortality in the mother and child. Pre-eclampsia is more common in women with multiple pregnancy and in those with conditions associated with microvascular disease.
Antiplatelet drugs (primarily low-dose aspirin) reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, death of the baby, and premature birth without increasing the risks of bleeding, in women at high risk of pre-eclampsia. Calcium supplementation reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia compared with placebo.We don't know whether fish oil, evening primrose oil, salt restriction, magnesium supplementation, or glyceryl trinitrate are beneficial in high-risk women because there are insufficient data to draw reliable conclusions. We don't know whether antioxidants reduce rates of pre-eclampsia as the data are inconsistent, although they are unlikely to reduce mortality.
We don't know whether atenolol reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, but it may worsen outcomes for babies.
For women with mild to moderate hypertension during pregnancy, antihypertensive drugs reduce the risk of progression to severe hypertension, but may not improve other clinical outcomes. ACE inhibitors have been associated with fetal renal failure, and beta-blockers are associated with the baby being born small for its gestational age.We don't know whether bed rest or hospital admission are also beneficial.
There is consensus that women who develop severe hypertension in pregnancy should receive antihypertensive treatment, but we don't know which antihypertensive agent is most effective. We don't know whether plasma volume expansion, antioxidants, epidural analgesia, or early delivery improve outcomes for women with severe pre-eclampsia.
Magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of first or subsequent seizures in women with severe pre-eclampsia compared with placebo.
Magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of subsequent seizures in women with eclampsia compared with either phenytoin or diazepam, with fewer adverse effects for the mother or baby.
PMCID: PMC3275298  PMID: 21718554
11.  The APPLe Study: A Randomized, Community-Based, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Azithromycin for the Prevention of Preterm Birth, with Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(12):e1000191.
In a randomized trial in Malawi of azithromycin versus placebo in over 2,000 pregnant women, Jim Neilson and colleagues show no benefit of azithromycin for a number of outcomes including preterm birth and prenatal death.
Background
Premature birth is the major cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity in both high- and low-income countries. The causes of preterm labour are multiple but infection is important. We have previously described an unusually high incidence of preterm birth (20%) in an ultrasound-dated, rural, pregnant population in Southern Malawi with high burdens of infective morbidity. We have now studied the impact of routine prophylaxis with azithromycin as directly observed, single-dose therapy at two gestational windows to try to decrease the incidence of preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
We randomized 2,297 pregnant women attending three rural and one peri-urban health centres in Southern Malawi to a placebo-controlled trial of oral azithromycin (1 g) given at 16–24 and 28–32 wk gestation. Gestational age was determined by ultrasound before 24 wk. Women and their infants were followed up until 6 wk post delivery. The primary outcome was incidence of preterm delivery, defined as <37 wk. Secondary outcomes were mean gestational age at delivery, perinatal mortality, birthweight, maternal malaria, and anaemia. Analysis was by intention to treat. There were no significant differences in outcome between the azithromycin group (n = 1,096) and the placebo group (n = 1,087) in respect of preterm birth (16.8% versus 17.4%), odds ratio (OR) 0.96, 95% confidence interval (0.76–1.21); mean gestational age at delivery (38.5 versus 38.4 weeks), mean difference 0.16 (−0.08 to 0.40); mean birthweight (3.03 versus 2.99 kg), mean difference 0.04 (−0.005 to 0.08); perinatal deaths (4.3% versus 5.0%), OR 0.85 (0.53–1.38); or maternal malarial parasitaemia (11.5% versus 10.1%), OR 1.11 (0.84–1.49) and anaemia (44.1% versus 41.3%) at 28–32 weeks, OR 1.07 (0.88–1.30). Meta-analysis of the primary outcome results with seven other studies of routine antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnancy (>6,200 pregnancies) shows no effect on preterm birth (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.86–1.22).
Conclusions
This study provides no support for the use of antibiotics as routine prophylaxis to prevent preterm birth in high risk populations; prevention of preterm birth requires alternative strategies.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN84023116
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. Labor that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother) is defined as a preterm birth. In industrialized countries, 5%–10% of all births are preterm. Figures for preterm births are harder to obtain for low-income countries because of uncertainties about gestational dates but, in both rich and poor countries, preterm birth is a major cause of infant death and illness around the time of birth. Babies who are born prematurely also often have long-term health problems and disabilities. There are many reasons why some babies are born prematurely. Structural problems such as a weak cervix (the neck of the womb, which dilates during labor to allow the baby to leave the mother's body) can result in a premature delivery, as can pregnancy-induced diabetes, blood-clotting disorders, bacterial infections in the vagina or the womb, and malaria. However, it is impossible to predict which mothers will spontaneously deliver early.
Why Was This Study Done?
At present there is no effective way to prevent premature births. Because infection is often associated with preterm labor and can occur early in pregnancy but remain undetected, one way to reduce the incidence of preterm births may be to give pregnant women antibiotics even when they have no obvious infection (prophylactic antibiotics). In this study, the researchers test this hypothesis by giving the antibiotic azithromycin to pregnant women living in Southern Malawi in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. One baby in five is born before 37 weeks gestation in Southern Malawi and the women living in this part of sub-Saharan Africa have a high burden of infection. Azithromycin is a safe antibiotic that can treat many of the bacterial infections that have been implicated in preterm birth. It also has some antimalarial activity. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, participants are randomly assigned to receive a drug or identical-looking “dummy” tablets (placebo).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled more than 2,000 pregnant women into the APPLe study (Azithromycin for the Prevention of Preterm Labor) and determined the gestational age of their unborn babies using ultrasound. Half of the women were given an oral dose of azithromycin at 16–24 weeks and at 28–32 weeks gestation. The remaining women were given a placebo at similar times. The mothers and their babies were followed up until 6 weeks after delivery. There was no significant difference in the primary outcome of the study—the incidence of delivery before 37 weeks gestation—between the two groups of women. Secondary outcomes—including mean gestational age at delivery, mean birth weight, and still births and infant deaths within a week of birth—were also similar in the two groups of women. Finally, the researchers did a meta-analysis (a statistical technique that combines the results of several studies) of their study and seven published studies of routine antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnancy, which indicated that the prophylactic use of antibiotics did not alter the risk of preterm birth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide no support for the use of antibiotics as prophylaxis to prevent preterm birth. The women included in this study had an unusually high incidence of preterm delivery and a high burden of infection so these findings may not be generalizable. The results of the meta-analysis, however, also provide no support for prophylactic antibiotics. Given that observational data have associated infection with preterm labor, why are the results of the APPLe trial and the meta-analysis negative? One possibility is that different antibiotics or dosing regimens might be more effective. Another possibility is that infection might be a secondary consequence of some other condition that causes preterm birth rather than the primary cause of early delivery. Whatever the reason for the lack of effect of prophylactic antibiotics, the researchers recommend that pregnant women should not be given antibiotics prophylactically to prevent preterm birth particularly since, in a recent study, the babies of women given antibiotics to halt ongoing preterm labor had an increased risk of developmental problems.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000191.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on maternal and infant health (in English and Spanish)
The US National Women's Health Information Center has detailed information about pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000191
PMCID: PMC2776277  PMID: 19956761
12.  Prevention of congenital malformations and other adverse pregnancy outcomes with 4.0 mg of folic acid: community-based randomized clinical trial in Italy and the Netherlands 
Background
In 2010 a Cochrane review confirmed that folic acid (FA) supplementation prevents the first- and second-time occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs). At present some evidence from observational studies supports the hypothesis that FA supplementation can reduce the risk of all congenital malformations (CMs) or the risk of a specific and selected group of them, namely cardiac defects and oral clefts. Furthermore, the effects on the prevention of prematurity, foetal growth retardation and pre-eclampsia are unclear.
Although the most common recommendation is to take 0.4 mg/day, the problem of the most appropriate dose of FA is still open.
The aim of this project is to assess the effect a higher dose of peri-conceptional FA supplementation on reducing the occurrence of all CMs. Other aims include the promotion of pre-conceptional counselling, comparing rates of selected CMs, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, small for gestational age, abruptio placentae.
Methods/Design
This project is a joint effort by research groups in Italy and the Netherlands. Women of childbearing age, who intend to become pregnant within 12 months are eligible for the studies. Women are randomly assigned to receive 4 mg of FA (treatment in study) or 0.4 mg of FA (referent treatment) daily. Information on pregnancy outcomes are derived from women-and-physician information.
We foresee to analyze the data considering all the adverse outcomes of pregnancy taken together in a global end point (e.g.: CMs, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, small for gestational age). A total of about 1,000 pregnancies need to be evaluated to detect an absolute reduction of the frequency of 8%. Since the sample size needed for studying outcomes separately is large, this project also promotes an international prospective meta-analysis.
Discussion
The rationale of these randomized clinical trials (RCTs) is the hypothesis that a higher intake of FA is related to a higher risk reduction of NTDs, other CMs and other adverse pregnancy outcomes. Our hope is that these trials will act as catalysers, and lead to other large RCTs studying the effects of this supplementation on CMs and other infant and maternal outcomes.
Trial registration
Italian trial: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01244347.
Dutch trial: Dutch Trial Register ID: NTR3161.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-166
PMCID: PMC4045958  PMID: 24884885
Congenital malformations; Birth defects; Folic acid; Vitamins; Prevention; Prematurity; Birth weight; Pre-eclampsia; Meta-analysis
13.  Intermittent oral iron supplementation during pregnancy (Review) 
Background
Anaemia is a frequent condition during pregnancy, particularly among women from developing countries who have insufficient iron intake to meet increased iron needs of both the mother and the fetus. Traditionally, gestational anaemia has been prevented with the provision of daily iron supplements throughout pregnancy, but adherence to this regimen due to side effects, interrupted supply of the supplements, and concerns about safety among women with an adequate iron intake, have limited the use of this intervention. Intermittent (i.e. one, two or three times a week on non-consecutive days) supplementation with iron alone or in combination with folic acid or other vitamins and minerals has recently been proposed as an alternative to daily supplementation.
Objectives
To assess the benefits and harms of intermittent supplementation with iron alone or in combination with folic acid or other vitamins and minerals to pregnant women on neonatal and pregnancy outcomes.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (23 March 2012). We also searched the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) for ongoing studies and contacted relevant organisations for the identification of ongoing and unpublished studies (23 March 2012).
Selection criteria
Randomised or quasi-randomised trials.
Data collection and analysis
We assessed the methodological quality of trials using standard Cochrane criteria. Two review authors independently assessed trial eligibility, extracted data and conducted checks for accuracy.
Main results
This review includes 21 trials from 13 different countries, but only 18 trials (with 4072 women) reported on our outcomes of interest and contributed data to the review. All of these studies compared daily versus intermittent iron supplementation.
Three studies provided iron alone, 12 iron+folic acid and three more iron plus multiple vitamins and minerals. Their methodological quality was mixed and most had high levels of attrition. Overall, there was no clear evidence of differences between groups for infant primary outcomes: low birthweight (average risk ratio (RR) 0.96; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61 to 1.52, seven studies), infant birthweight (mean difference MD −8.62 g; 95% CI −52.76 g to 35.52 g, eight studies), premature birth (average RR 1.82; 95% CI 0.75 to 4.40, four studies). None of the studies reported neonatal deaths or congenital anomalies.
For maternal outcomes, there was no clear evidence of differences between groups for anaemia at term (average RR 1.22; 95% CI 0.84 to 1.80, four studies) and women receiving intermittent supplementation had less side effects (average RR 0.56; 95% CI 0.37 to 0.84, 11 studies) than those receiving daily supplements. Women receiving intermittent supplements were also at lower risk of having high haemoglobin (Hb) concentrations (greater than 130 g/L) during the second or third trimester of pregnancy (average RR 0.48; 95% CI 0.35 to 0.67, 13 studies). There were no significant differences in iron-deficiency anaemia between women receiving intermittent or daily iron+folic acid supplementation (average RR 0.71; 95% CI 0.08 to 6.63, 1 study). There were no maternal deaths (six studies) or women with severe anaemia in pregnancy (six studies). None of the studies reported on iron deficiency at term or infections during pregnancy.
Where sufficient data were available for primary outcomes, we set up subgroups to look for possible differences between studies in terms of earlier or later supplementation; women’s anaemia status at the start of supplementation; higher and lower weekly doses of iron; and the malarial status of the region in which the trials were conducted. There was no clear effect of these variables on the results of the review.
Authors’ conclusions
The present systematic review is the most comprehensive summary of the evidence assessing the benefits and harms of intermittent iron supplementation regimens in pregnant women on haematological and pregnancy outcomes. The findings suggest that intermittent iron+folic acid regimens produce similar maternal and infant outcomes at birth as daily supplementation but are associated with fewer side effects. Women receiving daily supplements had increased risk of developing high levels of Hb in mid and late pregnancy but were less likely to present mild anaemia near term. Although the evidence is limited and the quality of the trials was low or very low, intermittent may be a feasible alternative to daily iron supplementation among those pregnant women who are not anaemic and have adequate antenatal care.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009997
PMCID: PMC4053594  PMID: 22786531
*Dietary Supplements [adverse effects]; Administration, Oral; Anemia, Iron-Deficiency [blood; *prevention & control]; Developing Countries; Drug Administration Schedule; Drug Combinations; Folic Acid [administration & dosage]; Hemoglobin A [metabolism]; Infant, Low Birth Weight; Infant, Newborn; Iron [*administration & dosage; adverse effects]; Iron, Dietary [*administration & dosage]; Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic [blood; prevention & control]; Premature Birth; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Vitamins [administration & dosage]; Female; Humans; Pregnancy
14.  Pre-eclampsia, soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1, and the risk of reduced thyroid function: nested case-control and population based study 
Objective To determine if pre-eclampsia is associated with reduced thyroid function during and after pregnancy.
Design Nested case-control study during pregnancy and population based follow-up study after pregnancy.
Setting Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention trial of healthy pregnant nulliparous women in the United States during 1992-5, and a Norwegian population based study (Nord-Trondelag Health Study or HUNT-2) during 1995-7 with linkage to the medical birth registry of Norway.
Participants All 141 women (cases) in the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention trial with serum measurements before 21 weeks’ gestation (baseline) and after onset of pre-eclampsia (before delivery), 141 normotensive controls with serum measurements at similar gestational ages, and 7121 women in the Nord-Trondelag Health Study whose first birth had occurred in 1967 or later and in whom serum levels of thyroid stimulating hormone had been subsequently measured.
Main outcome measures Thyroid function tests and human chorionic gonadotrophin and soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 concentrations in the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention cohort and odds ratios for levels of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range, according to pre-eclampsia status in singleton pregnancies before the Nord-Trondelag Health Study.
Results In predelivery specimens of the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention cohort after the onset of pre-eclampsia, thyroid stimulating hormone levels increased 2.42 times above baseline compared with a 1.48 times increase in controls. The ratio of the predelivery to baseline ratio of cases to that of the controls was 1.64 (95% confidence interval 1.29 to 2.08). Free triiodothyronine decreased more in the women with pre-eclampsia than in the controls (case ratio to control ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.92 to 0.99). The predelivery specimens but not baseline samples from women with pre-eclampsia were significantly more likely than those from controls to have concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range (adjusted odds ratio 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 4.4). Both in women who developed pre-eclampsia and in normotensive controls the increase in thyroid stimulating hormone concentration between baseline and predelivery specimens was strongly associated with increasing quarters of predelivery soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (P for trend 0.002 and <0.001, respectively). In the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, women with a history of pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy were more likely than other women (adjusted odds ratio 1.7, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 2.5) to have concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range (>3.5 mIU/l). In particular, they were more likely to have high concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone without thyroid peroxidase antibodies (adjusted odds ratio 2.6, 95% confidence interval 1.3 to 5.0), suggesting hypothyroid function in the absence of an autoimmune process. This association was especially strong (5.8, 1.3 to 25.5) if pre-eclampsia had occurred in both the first and the second pregnancies.
Conclusion Increased serum concentration of soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 during pre-eclampsia is associated with subclinical hypothyroidism during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia may also predispose to reduced thyroid function in later years.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b4336
PMCID: PMC2778749  PMID: 19920004
15.  Pre-eclampsia, soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1, and the risk of reduced thyroid function: nested case-control and population based study 
The BMJ  2009;339:b4336.
Objective To determine if pre-eclampsia is associated with reduced thyroid function during and after pregnancy.
Design Nested case-control study during pregnancy and population based follow-up study after pregnancy.
Setting Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention trial of healthy pregnant nulliparous women in the United States during 1992-5, and a Norwegian population based study (Nord-Trondelag Health Study or HUNT-2) during 1995-7 with linkage to the medical birth registry of Norway.
Participants All 141 women (cases) in the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention trial with serum measurements before 21 weeks’ gestation (baseline) and after onset of pre-eclampsia (before delivery), 141 normotensive controls with serum measurements at similar gestational ages, and 7121 women in the Nord-Trondelag Health Study whose first birth had occurred in 1967 or later and in whom serum levels of thyroid stimulating hormone had been subsequently measured.
Main outcome measures Thyroid function tests and human chorionic gonadotrophin and soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 concentrations in the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention cohort and odds ratios for levels of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range, according to pre-eclampsia status in singleton pregnancies before the Nord-Trondelag Health Study.
Results In predelivery specimens of the Calcium for Pre-eclampsia Prevention cohort after the onset of pre-eclampsia, thyroid stimulating hormone levels increased 2.42 times above baseline compared with a 1.48 times increase in controls. The ratio of the predelivery to baseline ratio of cases to that of the controls was 1.64 (95% confidence interval 1.29 to 2.08). Free triiodothyronine decreased more in the women with pre-eclampsia than in the controls (case ratio to control ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.92 to 0.99). The predelivery specimens but not baseline samples from women with pre-eclampsia were significantly more likely than those from controls to have concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range (adjusted odds ratio 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 4.4). Both in women who developed pre-eclampsia and in normotensive controls the increase in thyroid stimulating hormone concentration between baseline and predelivery specimens was strongly associated with increasing quarters of predelivery soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (P for trend 0.002 and <0.001, respectively). In the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, women with a history of pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy were more likely than other women (adjusted odds ratio 1.7, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 2.5) to have concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone above the reference range (>3.5 mIU/l). In particular, they were more likely to have high concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone without thyroid peroxidase antibodies (adjusted odds ratio 2.6, 95% confidence interval 1.3 to 5.0), suggesting hypothyroid function in the absence of an autoimmune process. This association was especially strong (5.8, 1.3 to 25.5) if pre-eclampsia had occurred in both the first and the second pregnancies.
Conclusion Increased serum concentration of soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 during pre-eclampsia is associated with subclinical hypothyroidism during pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia may also predispose to reduced thyroid function in later years.
doi:10.1136/bmj.b4336
PMCID: PMC2778749  PMID: 19920004
16.  Potential for task-sharing to Lady Health Workers for identification and emergency management of pre-eclampsia at community level in Pakistan 
Reproductive Health  2016;13(Suppl 2):107.
Background
An estimated 276 Pakistani women die for every 100,000 live births; with eclampsia accounting for about 10 % of these deaths. Community health workers contribute to the existing health system in Pakistan under the banner of the Lady Health Worker (LHW) Programme and are responsible to provide a comprehensive package of antenatal services. However, there is a need to increase focus on early identification and prompt diagnosis of pre-eclampsia in community settings, since women with mild pre-eclampsia often present without symptoms. This study aims to explore the potential for task-sharing to LHWs for the community-level management of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in Pakistan.
Methods
A qualitative exploratory study was undertaken February-July 2012 in two districts, Hyderabad and Matiari, in the southern province of Sindh, Pakistan. Altogether 33 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted and the LHW curriculum and training materials were also reviewed. The data was audio-recorded, then transcribed verbatim for thematic analysis using QSR NVivo-version10.
Results
Findings from the review of the LHW curriculum and training program describe that in the existing community delivery system, LHWs are responsible for identification of pregnant women, screening women for danger signs and referrals for antenatal care. They are the first point of contact for women in pregnancy and provide nutritional counselling along with distribution of iron and folic acid supplements. Findings from FGDs suggest that LHWs do not carry a blood pressure device or antihypertensive medications; they refer to the nearest public facility in the event of a pregnancy complication. Currently, they provide tetanus toxoid in pregnancy. The health advice provided by lady health workers is highly valued and accepted by pregnant women and their families. Many Supervisors of LHWs recognized the need for increased training regarding pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, with a focus on identifying women at high risk. The entire budget of the existing lady health worker Programme is provided by the Government of Pakistan, indicating a strong support by policy makers and the government for the tasks undertaken by these providers.
Conclusion
There is a potential for training and task-sharing to LHWs for providing comprehensive antenatal care; specifically for the identification and management of pre-eclampsia in Pakistan. However, the implementation needs to be combined with appropriate training, equipment availability and supervision.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrial.gov, NCT01911494
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12978-016-0214-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12978-016-0214-0
PMCID: PMC5056493  PMID: 27719680
Task-sharing; Obstetric care; Community health workers; Community-based interventions
17.  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
18.  Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and hypertension 
BMJ Clinical Evidence  2008;2008:1402.
Introduction
Pre-eclampsia (raised blood pressure and proteinuria) complicates 2-8% of pregnancies, and raises morbidity and mortality in the mother and child. Pre-eclampsia is more common in women with multiple pregnancy and in those who have conditions associates with microvascular disease.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of preventive interventions in women at risk of pre-eclampsia? What are the effects of interventions in women who develop mild-moderate hypertension during pregnancy? What are the effects of interventions in women who develop severe pre-eclampsia or very high blood pressure during pregnancy? What is the best choice of anticonvulsant for women with eclampsia? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to June 2007 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Results
We found 53 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: anticonvulsants, antihypertensive drugs, antioxidants, antiplatelet drugs, atenolol, bed rest, hospital admission or day care, calcium supplementation, choice of analgesia during labour, early delivery (interventionist care), evening primrose oil, fish oil, glyceryl trinitrate, magnesium supplementation, plasma volume expansion, and salt restriction.
Key Points
Pre-eclampsia (raised blood pressure and proteinuria) complicates 2-8% of pregnancies, and increases morbidity and mortality in the mother and child. Pre-eclampsia is more common in women with multiple pregnancy, and in people with conditions associated with microvascular disease.
Antiplatelet drugs (primarily low-dose aspirin) reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, death of the baby, and premature birth, without increasing the risks of bleeding, in women at high risk of pre-eclampsia. Calcium supplementation reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia compared with placebo.We don't know whether fish oil, evening primrose oil, salt restriction, magnesium supplementation, antioxidants, or glyceryl trinitrate are beneficial in high-risk women, because there are insufficient data to draw reliable conclusions.We don't know whether atenolol reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia, but it may worsen outcomes for babies.
For women with mild to moderate hypertension during pregnancy, antihypertensive drugs reduce the risk of progression to severe hypertension, but may not improve other clinical outcomes. ACE inhibitors have been associated with fetal renal failure, and beta-blockers are associated with the baby being born small for its gestational age.We don't know whether bed rest or hospital admission are also beneficial.
There is consensus that women who develop severe hypertension in pregnancy should receive antihypertensive treatment, but we don't know which antihypertensive agent is most effective. We don't know whether plasma volume expansion, antioxidants, epidural analgesia, or early delivery improve outcomes for women with severe pre-eclampsia.
Magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of first or subsequent seizures in women with severe pre-eclampsia compared with placebo.
Magnesium sulphate reduces the risk of subsequent seizures in women with eclampsia compared with either phenytoin or diazepam, with fewer adverse effects for the mother or baby.
PMCID: PMC2907952  PMID: 19445808
19.  Folic acid supplementation, dietary folate intake during pregnancy and risk for spontaneous preterm delivery: a prospective observational cohort study 
Background
Health authorities in numerous countries recommend periconceptional folic acid to pregnant women to prevent neural tube defects. The objective of this study was to examine the association of folic acid supplementation during different periods of pregnancy and of dietary folate intake with the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery (PTD).
Methods
The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study is a population-based prospective cohort study. A total of 65,668 women with singleton pregnancies resulting in live births in 1999–2009 were included. Folic acid supplementation was self-reported from 26 weeks before pregnancy until week 24 during pregnancy. At gestational week 22, the women completed a food frequency questionnaire, which allowed the calculation of their average total folate intake from foods and supplements for the first 4–5 months of pregnancy. Spontaneous PTD was defined as the spontaneous onset of delivery between weeks 22+0 and 36+6 (n = 1,628).
Results
The median total folate intake was 266 μg/d (interquartile range IQR 154–543) in the overall population and 540 μg/d (IQR 369–651) in the supplement users. Eighty-three percent reported any folic acid supplementation from <8 weeks before to 24 weeks after conception while 42% initiated folic acid supplementation before their pregnancy. Cox regression analysis showed that the amount of folate intake from the diet (hazard ratio HR 1.16; confidence interval CI 0.65-2.08) and from the folic acid supplements (HR 1.04; CI 0.95-1.13) was not significantly associated with the risk of PTD. The initiation of folic acid supplementation more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk for PTD (HR 1.19; CI 1.05-1.34) compared to no folic acid supplementation pre-conception. There was no significant association with PTD when supplementation was initiated within 8 weeks pre-conception (HR 1.01; CI 0.88-1.16). All analyses were adjusted for maternal characteristics and socioeconomic, health and dietary variables.
Conclusions
Our findings do not support a protective effect of dietary folate intake or folic acid supplementation on spontaneous PTD. Pre-conceptional folic acid supplementation starting more than 8 weeks before conception was associated with an increased risk of PTD. These results require further investigation before discussing an expansion of folic acid supplementation guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-160
PMCID: PMC3751653  PMID: 23937678
Pregnancy; Preterm delivery; Preterm birth; Gestational length; Folate; Folic acid supplementation
20.  Effects of alternative maternal micronutrient supplements on low birth weight in rural Nepal: double blind randomised community trial 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2003;326(7389):571.
Objective
To assess the impact on birth size and risk of low birth weight of alternative combinations of micronutrients given to pregnant women.
Design
Double blind cluster randomised controlled trial.
Setting
Rural community in south eastern Nepal.
Participants
4926 pregnant women and 4130 live born infants.
Interventions
426 communities were randomised to five regimens in which pregnant women received daily supplements of folic acid, folic acid-iron, folic acid-iron-zinc, or multiple micronutrients all given with vitamin A, or vitamin A alone (control).
Main outcome measures
Birth weight, length, and head and chest circumference assessed within 72 hours of birth. Low birth weight was defined <2500 g.
Results
Supplementation with maternal folic acid alone had no effect on birth size. Folic acid-iron increased mean birth weight by 37 g (95% confidence interval −16 g to 90 g) and reduced the percentage of low birthweight babies (<2500 g) from 43% to 34% (16%; relative risk=0.84, 0.72 to 0.99). Folic acid-iron-zinc had no effect on birth size compared with controls. Multiple micronutrient supplementation increased birth weight by 64 g (12 g to 115 g) and reduced the percentage of low birthweight babies by 14% (0.86, 0.74 to 0.99). None of the supplement combinations reduced the incidence of preterm births. Folic acid-iron and multiple micronutrients increased head and chest circumference of babies, but not length.
Conclusions
Antenatal folic acid-iron supplements modestly reduce the risk of low birth weight. Multiple micronutrients confer no additional benefit over folic acid-iron in reducing this risk.
What is already known on this topicDeficiencies in micronutrients are common in women in developing countries and have been associated with low birth weight and preterm deliveryWhat this study addsIn rural Nepal maternal supplementation with folic acid-iron reduced the incidence of low birth weight by 16%A multiple micronutrient supplement of 14 micronutrients, including folic acid, iron, and zinc, reduced low birth weight by 14%, thus conferring no advantage over folic acid-iron
PMCID: PMC151518  PMID: 12637400
21.  Essential pre-pregnancy and pregnancy interventions for improved maternal, newborn and child health 
Reproductive Health  2014;11(Suppl 1):S2.
The statistics related to pregnancy and its outcomes are staggering: annually, an estimated 250000-280000 women die during childbirth. Unfortunately, a large number of women receive little or no care during or before pregnancy. At a period of critical vulnerability, interventions can be effectively delivered to improve the health of women and their newborns and also to make their pregnancy safe. This paper reviews the interventions that are most effective during preconception and pregnancy period and synergistically improve maternal and neonatal outcomes. Among pre-pregnancy interventions, family planning and advocating pregnancies at appropriate intervals; prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections including HIV; and peri-conceptual folic-acid supplementation have shown significant impact on reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. During pregnancy, interventions including antenatal care visit model; iron and folic acid supplementation; tetanus Immunisation; prevention and management of malaria; prevention and management of HIV and PMTCT; calcium for hypertension; anti-Platelet agents (low dose aspirin) for prevention of Pre-eclampsia; anti-hypertensives for treating severe hypertension; management of pregnancy-induced hypertension/eclampsia; external cephalic version for breech presentation at term (>36 weeks); management of preterm, premature rupture of membranes; management of unintended pregnancy; and home visits for women and children across the continuum of care have shown maximum impact on reducing the burden of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality. All of the interventions summarized in this paper have the potential to improve maternal mortality rates and also contribute to better health care practices during preconception and periconception period.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-11-S1-S2
PMCID: PMC4145858  PMID: 25178042
preconception; prepregnancy; pregnancy; essential interventions
22.  Daily oral iron supplementation during pregnancy 
Background
Iron and folic acid supplementation has been the preferred intervention to improve iron stores and prevent anaemia among pregnant women, and it may also improve other maternal and birth outcomes.
Objectives
To assess the effects of daily oral iron supplements for pregnant women, either alone or in conjunction with folic acid, or with other vitamins and minerals as a public health intervention.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (2 July 2012). We also searched the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (2 July 2012) and contacted relevant organisations for the identification of ongoing and unpublished studies.
Selection criteria
Randomised or quasi-randomised trials evaluating the effects of oral preventive supplementation with daily iron, iron + folic acid or iron + other vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.
Data collection and analysis
We assessed the methodological quality of trials using standard Cochrane criteria. Two review authors independently assessed trial eligibility, extracted data and conducted checks for accuracy.
Main results
We included 60 trials. Forty-three trials, involving more than 27,402 women, contributed data and compared the effects of daily oral supplements containing iron versus no iron or placebo.
Overall, women taking iron supplements were less likely to have low birthweight newborns (below 2500 g) compared with controls (8.4% versus 10.2%, average risk ratio (RR) 0.81; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.68 to 0.97, 11 trials, 8480 women) and mean birthweight was 30.81 g greater for those infants whose mothers received iron during pregnancy (average mean difference (MD) 30.81; 95% CI 5.94 to 55.68, 14 trials, 9385 women). Preventive iron supplementation reduced the risk of maternal anaemia at term by 70% (RR 0.30; 95% CI 0.19 to 0.46, 14 trials, 2199 women) and iron deficiency at term by 57% (RR 0.43; 95% CI 0.27 to 0.66, seven trials, 1256 women). Although the difference between groups did not reach statistical significance, women who received iron supplements were more likely than controls to report side effects (25.3% versus 9.91%) (RR 2.36; 95% CI 0.96 to 5.82, 11 trials, 4418 women), particularly at doses 60 mg of elemental iron or higher. Women receiving iron were on average more likely to have higher haemoglobin (Hb) concentrations at term and in the postpartum period, but were at increased risk of Hb concentrations greater than 130g/L during pregnancy and at term. Twenty-three studies were conducted in countries that in 2011 had some malaria risk in parts of the country. In some of these countries/territories, malaria is present only in certain areas or up to a particular altitude. Only two of these reported malaria outcomes. There is no evidence that iron supplementation increases placental malaria. For some outcomes heterogeneity was higher than 50%.
Authors’ conclusions
Prenatal supplementation with daily iron are effective to reduce the risk of low birthweight, and to prevent maternal anaemia and iron deficiency in pregnancy. Associated maternal side effects and particularly high Hb concentrations during pregnancy at currently used doses suggest the need to update recommendations on doses and regimens for routine iron supplementation.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004736.pub4
PMCID: PMC4233117  PMID: 23235616
*Dietary Supplements [adverse effects]; Anemia, Iron-Deficiency [*prevention & control]; Folic Acid [*administration & dosage]; Infant, Low Birth Weight; Infant, Newborn; Iron [*administration & dosage]; Iron, Dietary [administration & dosage]; Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic [*prevention & control]; Pregnancy Outcome; Prenatal Care [methods]; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Female; Humans; Pregnancy
23.  Vitamin D supplementation for women during pregnancy 
Background
Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is thought to be common among pregnant women. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy has been suggested as an intervention to protect against adverse gestational outcomes.
Objectives
To examine whether supplements with vitamin D alone or in combination with calcium or other vitamins and minerals given to women during pregnancy can safely improve maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (31 October 2011), the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (31 October 2011), the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (28 October 2011) and also contacted relevant organisations (8 April 2011).
Selection criteria
Randomised and quasi-randomised trials with randomisation at either individual or cluster level, evaluating the effect of supplementation with vitamin D alone or in combination with other micronutrients for women during pregnancy.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently i) assessed the eligibility of studies against the inclusion criteria ii) extracted data from included studies, and iii) assessed the risk of bias of the included studies. Data were checked for accuracy.
Main results
The search strategy identified 34 potentially eligible references. We included six trials assessing a total of 1023 women, excluded eight studies, and 10 studies are still ongoing. Five trials involving 623 women compared the effects of vitamin D alone versus no supplementation/placebo and one trial with 400 women compared the effects of vitamin D and calcium versus no supplementation.
Only one trial with 400 women reported on pre-eclampsia: women who received 1200 IU vitamin D along with 375 mg of elemental calcium per day were as likely to develop pre-eclampsia as women who received no supplementation (average risk ratio (RR) 0.67; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.33 to 1.35). Data from four trials involving 414 women consistently show that women who received vitamin D supplements had higher concentrations of vitamin D in serum at term than those women who received no intervention or a placebo; however the magnitude of the response was highly heterogenous.
Data from three trials involving 463 women suggest that women who receive vitamin D supplements during pregnancy less frequently had a baby with a birthweight below 2500 grams than those women receiving no treatment or placebo; statistical significance was borderline (RR 0.48; 95% CI 0.23 to 1.01).
In terms of other conditions, there were no significant differences in adverse side effects including nephritic syndrome (RR 0.17; 95% CI 0.01 to 4.06; one trial, 135 women); stillbirths (RR 0.17; 95% CI 0.01 to 4.06; one trial, 135 women) or neonatal deaths (RR 0.17; 95% CI 0.01 to 4.06; one trial, 135 women) between women who received vitamin D supplements in comparison with women who received no treatment or placebo. No studies reported on preterm birth, maternal death, admission to neonatal intensive care unit/special nursery or Apgar scores.
Authors' conclusions
Vitamin D supplementation in a single or continued dose during pregnancy increases serum vitamin D concentrations as measured by 25-hydroxyvitamin D at term. The clinical significance of this finding and the potential use of this intervention as a part of routine antenatal care are yet to be determined as the number of high quality trials and outcomes reported is too limited to draw conclusions on its usefulness and safety. Further rigorous randomised trials are required to evaluate the role of vitamin D supplementation in pregnancy.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008873.pub2
PMCID: PMC3747784  PMID: 22336854
24.  Socio-demographic characteristics of women sustaining injuries during pregnancy: a study from the Danish National Birth Cohort 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e000826.
Objectives
To describe adverse birth outcomes associated with hospital-treated injuries that took place among women in the Danish National Birth Cohort.
Design
Longitudinal cohort study.
Setting
Denmark.
Participants
90 452 women and their offspring selected from the Danish National Birth Cohort.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
To determine if injured women were more likely to deliver an infant preterm, with low birth weight, stillborn or have a spontaneous abortion, the authors estimated HRs. ORs were generated to assess APGAR scores and infants born small for gestational age (SGA). Models were adjusted for maternal smoking and drinking during pregnancy, household socioeconomic status, eclampsia/pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes status during pregnancy and maternal age at birth; estimates for preterm birth were also adjusted for prior history of preterm birth.
Results
In the cohort of 90 452 pregnant women, 3561 (3.9%) received medical treatment for an injury during pregnancy. Injured pregnant women were more likely to deliver infants that were stillborn or have pregnancies terminated by spontaneous abortion. The authors did not detect an adverse effect between injuries sustained during pregnancy and delivery of preterm, low birth weight or SGA infants, or infants with an APGAR score of <7.
Conclusions
The study shows that injuries occurring among women from an unselected population may not have an adverse effect on birth weight, gestational age, APGAR score or SGA status but may adversely affect the risk of stillbirth and spontaneous abortions in some situations.
Article summary
Article focus
We describe adverse birth outcomes associated with injuries that took place among pregnant women in the Danish National Birth Cohort and include in our assessment injury severity, cause and mechanism.
Key messages
Injured pregnant women were more likely to deliver infants that were stillborn or have pregnancies that were terminated by spontaneous abortion. We did not detect an adverse effect between injuries sustained during pregnancy and delivery of preterm, low birth weight or SGA infants, or infants with an APGAR score of <7.
Women sustaining head or neck injuries were more likely to deliver an infant SGA and have a stillbirth, though these results were not statistically significant.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Previous studies have selected pregnant trauma patients or emergency room patients; our study, however, presents injuries among pregnant women from a general population.
We only have data on late spontaneous abortions, and if injured fetuses are aborted early, we would not detect an association.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000826
PMCID: PMC3391365  PMID: 22761281
25.  Risk of Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes among Women Practicing Poor Sanitation in Rural India: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(7):e1001851.
Background
The importance of maternal sanitation behaviour during pregnancy for birth outcomes remains unclear. Poor sanitation practices can promote infection and induce stress during pregnancy and may contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes (APOs). We aimed to assess whether poor sanitation practices were associated with increased risk of APOs such as preterm birth and low birth weight in a population-based study in rural India.
Methods and Findings
A prospective cohort of pregnant women (n = 670) in their first trimester of pregnancy was enrolled and followed until birth. Socio-demographic, clinical, and anthropometric factors, along with access to toilets and sanitation practices, were recorded at enrolment (12th week of gestation). A trained community health volunteer conducted home visits to ensure retention in the study and learn about study outcomes during the course of pregnancy. Unadjusted odds ratios (ORs) and adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and 95% confidence intervals for APOs were estimated by logistic regression models. Of the 667 women who were retained at the end of the study, 58.2% practiced open defecation and 25.7% experienced APOs, including 130 (19.4%) preterm births, 95 (14.2%) births with low birth weight, 11 (1.7%) spontaneous abortions, and six (0.9%) stillbirths. Unadjusted ORs for APOs (OR: 2.53; 95% CI: 1.72–3.71), preterm birth (OR: 2.36; 95% CI: 1.54–3.62), and low birth weight (OR: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.24–3.23) were found to be significantly associated with open defecation practices. After adjustment for potential confounders such as maternal socio-demographic and clinical factors, open defecation was still significantly associated with increased odds of APOs (AOR: 2.38; 95% CI: 1.49–3.80) and preterm birth (AOR: 2.22; 95% CI: 1.29–3.79) but not low birth weight (AOR: 1.61; 95% CI: 0.94–2.73). The association between APOs and open defecation was independent of poverty and caste. Even though we accounted for several key confounding factors in our estimates, the possibility of residual confounding should not be ruled out. We did not identify specific exposure pathways that led to the outcomes.
Conclusions
This study provides the first evidence, to our knowledge, that poor sanitation is associated with a higher risk of APOs. Additional studies are required to elucidate the socio-behavioural and/or biological basis of this association so that appropriate targeted interventions might be designed to support improved birth outcomes in vulnerable populations. While it is intuitive to expect that caste and poverty are associated with poor sanitation practice driving APOs, and we cannot rule out additional confounders, our results demonstrate that the association of poor sanitation practices (open defecation) with these outcomes is independent of poverty. Our results support the need to assess the mechanisms, both biological and behavioural, by which limited access to improved sanitation leads to APOs.
Pinaki Panigrahi and colleagues examine the association between adverse pregnancy outcomes and sanitation practices in pregnant women in rural India.
Editors' Summary
Background
Pregnancy is usually a happy time for women and their families. But, for some women, pregnancy ends unhappily. Some women lose their baby during early pregnancy (spontaneous abortion or miscarriage) or during late pregnancy (stillbirth). Others have their baby earlier than expected (preterm birth) or have a baby with low birth weight, two outcomes that adversely affect the baby’s survival and long-term health. The burden of adverse pregnancy outcomes (low birth weight, preterm birth, stillbirth, and spontaneous abortion) is substantial across the world but is particularly high in resource-limited settings. More than 60% of all preterm births take place in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and in India alone nearly 13 million babies (47% of all births) had a low birth weight in 2010. Many risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes have been identified, including infection, diabetes, poor antenatal care, and other socio-economic factors, but a clear causal mechanism for adverse pregnancy outcomes has not been established.
Why Was This Study Done?
One potential risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes, particularly in resource-limited settings, is poor sanitation—the inadequate provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation estimates that, globally, 1.1 billion people defecate in the open, a practice that can expose individuals to contact with human feces containing infectious organisms and that can contaminate food and water. Poor sanitation might contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes by promoting infection or by causing stress during pregnancy. Women might, for example, limit their intake of food and water to avoid having to use inadequate toilet facilities, thereby adversely affecting the health of their unborn child. Here, the researchers assess whether poor sanitation practices are associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes by undertaking a population-based prospective study in two rural areas of Odisha state, India. Odisha has a high infant death rate (57 deaths per 1,000 live births), only 18.2% of households have access to an improved latrine (a facility such as a flush toilet that hygienically prevents human contact with human excreta), and 75% of households practice open defecation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers enrolled 670 women during the first trimester of their pregnancy. They recorded socio-demographic data (for example, age, level of education, and household assets), clinical data, weight and height, and toilet access and sanitation practices for each woman at enrollment and followed them through pregnancy until birth. Nearly two-thirds of the women practiced open defecation, and a quarter experienced an adverse pregnancy outcome, most commonly a preterm birth and/or having a baby with low birth weight. After adjustment for potential confounding factors (factors that might affect outcomes, such as socio-demographic characteristics), open defecation was significantly associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes (all four adverse outcomes considered together) and with preterm birth, but not with low birth weight (a significant association is one that is unlikely to have happened by chance). Specifically, the adjusted odds ratios (an indicator of the strength of association between an exposure and an outcome; an odds ratio of more than one indicates that an exposure increases the risk of an outcome) of adverse pregnancy outcomes and preterm birth among women practicing open defecation compared with women with access to a latrine were 2.38 and 2.22, respectively. Notably, these associations were independent of poverty, caste, and religion.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among women in Odisha, defecation in the open (poor sanitation) during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of any adverse pregnancy outcome and of preterm birth than the use of a latrine. Counterintuitively, these findings also suggest that the association between open defecation and adverse pregnancy outcomes is not explained by poverty. Although the researchers adjusted for numerous confounding factors in their analysis, the women who defecated in the open may have shared some other unknown characteristic (residual confounding) that was actually responsible for their increased risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome. Further studies are now needed to determine the socio-behavioral and/or biological basis of the association between poor sanitation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Appropriate public health interventions can then be designed to reduce the burden of adverse pregnancy outcomes among women living in settings where there is limited access to adequate sanitation.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001828.
The March of Dimes, a non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and low birth weight
Tommy’s, a UK non-profit organization that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth, and miscarriage, also provides information about adverse pregnancy outcomes
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on water, sanitation, and health (in several languages)
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation monitors progress toward improved global sanitation; its 2014 report on progress in water sanitation is available (in several languages)
The children’s charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides information on water, sanitation, and health (in several languages)
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and the non-governmental organization Practical Action provide information on approaches and technologies for improving sanitation
A PLOS Medicine Collection on water and sanitation and a Policy Forum by Velleman et al. on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene for maternal and newborn health are available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001851
PMCID: PMC4511257  PMID: 26151447

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