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1.  Comprehensive Reference Ranges for Hematology and Clinical Chemistry Laboratory Parameters Derived from Normal Nigerian Adults 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e93919.
Interpretation of laboratory test results with appropriate diagnostic accuracy requires reference or cutoff values. This study is a comprehensive determination of reference values for hematology and clinical chemistry in apparently healthy voluntary non-remunerated blood donors and pregnant women.
Methods and findings
Consented clients were clinically screened and counseled before testing for HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis. Standard national blood donors’ questionnaire was administered to consented blood donors. Blood from qualified volunteers was used for measurement of complete hematology and chemistry parameters. Blood samples were analyzed from a total of 383 participants, 124 (32.4%) males, 125 (32.6%) non-pregnant females and 134 pregnant females (35.2%) with a mean age of 31 years. Our results showed that the red blood cells count (RBC), Hemoglobin (HB) and Hematocrit (HCT) had significant gender difference (p = 0.000) but not for total white blood count (p>0.05) which was only significantly higher in pregnant verses non-pregnant women (p = 0.000). Hemoglobin and Hematocrit values were lower in pregnancy (P = 0.000). Platelets were significantly higher in females than men (p = 0.001) but lower in pregnant women (p = 0.001) with marked difference in gestational period. For clinical chemistry parameters, there was no significant difference for sodium, potassium and chloride (p>0.05) but gender difference exists for Bicarbonate (HCO3), Urea nitrogen, Creatinine as well as the lipids (p<0.05). Total bilirubin was significantly higher in males than females (p = 0.000). Significant differences exist for all chemistry parameters between pregnant and non-pregnant women in this study (p<0.05), except Amylase and total cholesterol (p>0.05).
Hematological and Clinical Chemistry reference ranges established in this study showed significant gender differences. Pregnant women also differed from non-pregnant females and during pregnancy. This is the first of such comprehensive study to establish reference values among adult Nigerians and difference observed underscore the need to establish reference values for different populations.
PMCID: PMC4022493  PMID: 24832127
2.  Is Pregnancy Associated with Severe Dengue? A Review of Data from the Rio de Janeiro Surveillance Information System 
Dengue is a reportable disease in Brazil; however, pregnancy has been included in the application form of the Brazilian notification information system only after 2006. To estimate the severity of maternal dengue infection, the available data that were compiled from January 2007 to December 2008 by the official surveillance information system of the city of Rio de Janeiro were reviewed.
Methods and Principal Findings
During the study period, 151,604 cases of suspected dengue infection were reported. Five hundred sixty-one women in their reproductive age (15–49 years) presented with dengue infection; 99 (18.1%) pregnant and 447 (81.9%) non-pregnant women were analyzed. Dengue cases were categorized using the 1997 WHO classification system, and DHF/DSS were considered severe disease. The Mann-Whitney test was used to compare maternal age, according to gestational period, and severity of disease. A chi-square test was utilized to evaluate the differences in the proportion of dengue severity between pregnant and non-pregnant women. Univariate analysis was performed to compare outcome variables (severe dengue and non-severe dengue) and explanatory variables (pregnancy, gestational age and trimester) using the Wald test. A multivariate analysis was performed to assess the independence of statistically significant variables in the univariate analysis. A p-value<0.05 was considered statistically significant.
A higher percentage of severe dengue infection among pregnant women was found, p = 0.0001. Final analysis demonstrated that pregnant women are 3.4 times more prone to developing severe dengue (OR: 3.38; CI: 2.10–5.42). Mortality among pregnant women was superior to non-pregnant women.
Pregnant women have an increased risk of developing severe dengue infection and dying of dengue.
Author Summary
Dengue represents a major worldwide public health problem. According to the WHO, up to 50 million dengue infections occur each year. The occurrence of dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever has increased in Brazil, in part due to the simultaneous circulation of DENV-1, DENV-2 and DENV-3. Although a primary infection with one serotype confers a partial or transient immunity against other serotypes, any subsequent infections harbor the risk of increased morbidity/mortality. Several case reports have been published regarding maternal and fetal outcomes from dengue infection, but it is still inconclusive if pregnancy is associated with severity. To estimate the severity of maternal dengue infection, available data that were compiled from 2007 to 2008 by the official surveillance information system of the city of Rio de Janeiro were reviewed. The cases of dengue were analyzed using the 1997 WHO classification. Pregnant women were 3.4 times more prone to developing severe dengue than non-pregnant women. Mortality among pregnant women was superior to non-pregnant women. The increased risk of severe outcomes in pregnant women merits further attention to effective public health and medical interventions that will aid in avoiding morbidity/fatalities within this population.
PMCID: PMC3649957  PMID: 23675548
3.  Epidemiology of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: prevalence, severity, determinants, and the importance of race/ethnicity 
Studies that contributed to the epidemiology of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy have reported conflicting findings, and often failed to account for all possible co-variables necessary to evaluate the multidimensional associations. The objectives of this study were to: 1) Estimate the prevalence and the severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy during the 1st and the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, and 2) Identify determinants of presence and severity of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy during the 1st and 2nd trimesters separately, with a special emphasis on the impact of race/ethnicity.
A prospective study including pregnant women attending the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) Sainte-Justine or René-Laennec clinics for their prenatal care was conducted from 2004 to 2006. Women were eligible if they were ≥ 18 years of age, and ≤ 16 weeks of gestation. Women were asked to fill out a 1st trimester self-administered questionnaire and were interviewed over the telephone during their 2nd trimester of pregnancy. Presence of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy was based on the reporting of pregnant women (yes/no); severity of symptoms was measured by the validated modified-PUQE index.
Of the 367 women included in the study, 81.2% were Caucasians, 10.1% Blacks, 4.6% Hispanics, and 4.1% Asians. Multivariate analyses showed that race/ethnicity was significantly associated with a decreased likelihood of reporting nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (Asians vs. Caucasians OR: 0.13; 95%CI 0.02–0.73; and Blacks vs. Caucasians OR: 0.29; 95%CI 0.09–0.99).
Our study showed that race/ethnicity was associated with the reporting of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy in the 1st trimester of pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC2713199  PMID: 19573237
Journal of perinatal medicine  2007;35(6):513-521.
Resistin, a newly discovered adipokine, is thought to play a key role in the regulation of insulin resistance. The objectives of this study were to develop a nomogram of maternal plasma concentrations of resistin from 11 weeks of gestation to term and to determine whether resistin concentrations differ between normal and overweight pregnant women.
In this cross-sectional study, plasma concentrations of resistin were determined in normal pregnant women of normal body mass index (BMI 18.5–24.9; n=261), overweight pregnant women (BMI ≥25; n=140), and non-pregnant women of normal weight (n=40). Blood samples were collected once from each woman between the first trimester and term. Percentiles for resistin concentration were determined for five pre-specified windows of gestational age. Plasma resistin concentration was determined by immunoassay. Non-parametric statistics were used for analysis.
The median maternal plasma concentration of resistin between 11 to 14 weeks of gestation in women of normal weight was significantly higher than non-pregnant women; The plasma concentration of resistin increased with gestational age.
Normal pregnant women have a higher median plasma concentration of resistin than non-pregnant women and the concentration of this adipokine increases with advancing gestation. Alterations in the maternal plasma concentration of resistin during pregnancy may contribute to metabolic changes of pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC2413054  PMID: 17919114
Adipokines; Resistin; Pregnancy; Obesity; Nomogram
5.  Ethnic differences in lipid and lipoprotein metabolism in pregnant women of African and Caucasian origin. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1994;47(12):1105-1107.
AIMS--To investigate differences in serum lipid, lipoprotein and apolipoprotein concentrations in pregnant women of different ethnic origin. METHODS--Serum lipid, lipoprotein and apolipoprotein concentrations were measured in 232 women (114 Caucasians, 118 Africans/Afro-Caribbeans), who presented consecutively for screening for gestational diabetes in the third trimester of pregnancy. RESULTS--African/Afro-Caribbean pregnant women had lower serum concentrations of total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and apolipoprotein B and higher high density lipoprotein cholesterol and Lp(a) lipoprotein concentrations compared with Caucasian women. Apolipoprotein A1 concentrations were similar in the two groups. The differences were not attributable to differences in weight, age, parity, or postload plasma glucose levels. CONCLUSION--Ethnic origin is an important determinant of serum lipid, lipoprotein and apolipoprotein concentrations during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC502203  PMID: 7876384
6.  Preeclampsia as a Risk Factor for Diabetes: A Population-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(4):e1001425.
Denice Feig and colleagues assess the association between gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia and the development of future diabetes in a database analysis of pregnant women in Ontario, Canada.
Women with preeclampsia (PEC) and gestational hypertension (GH) exhibit insulin resistance during pregnancy, independent of obesity and glucose intolerance. Our aim was to determine whether women with PEC or GH during pregnancy have an increased risk of developing diabetes after pregnancy, and whether the presence of PEC/GH in addition to gestational diabetes (GDM) increases the risk of future (postpartum) diabetes.
Methods and Findings
We performed a population-based, retrospective cohort study for 1,010,068 pregnant women who delivered in Ontario, Canada between April 1994 and March 2008. Women were categorized as having PEC alone (n = 22,933), GH alone (n = 27,605), GDM alone (n = 30,852), GDM+PEC (n = 1,476), GDM+GH (n = 2,100), or none of these conditions (n = 925,102). Our main outcome was a new diagnosis of diabetes postpartum in the following years, up until March 2011, based on new records in the Ontario Diabetes Database. The incidence rate of diabetes per 1,000 person-years was 6.47 for women with PEC and 5.26 for GH compared with 2.81 in women with neither of these conditions. In the multivariable analysis, both PEC alone (hazard ratio [HR] = 2.08; 95% CI 1.97–2.19) and GH alone (HR = 1.95; 95% CI 1.83–2.07) were risk factors for subsequent diabetes. Women with GDM alone were at elevated risk of developing diabetes postpartum (HR = 12.77; 95% CI 12.44–13.10); however, the co–presence of PEC or GH in addition to GDM further elevated this risk (HR = 15.75; 95% CI 14.52–17.07, and HR = 18.49; 95% CI 17.12–19.96, respectively). Data on obesity were not available.
Women with PEC/GH have a 2-fold increased risk of developing diabetes when followed up to 16.5 years after pregnancy, even in the absence of GDM. The presence of PEC/GH in the setting of GDM also raised the risk of diabetes significantly beyond that seen with GDM alone. A history of PEC/GH during pregnancy should alert clinicians to the need for preventative counseling and more vigilant screening for diabetes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar), known as type 1 diabetes, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces—type 2 diabetes. Raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious complications and even death. Worryingly, the global burden of type 2 diabetes is increasing worldwide, and the World Health Organization estimates that 90% of the 347 million people with diabetes currently have type 2 diabetes. Previous studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in high risk groups by a range of lifestyle and treatment interventions and so it is important to identify potential high risk groups to screen for type 2 diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Gestational diabetes (a form of diabetes that is related to pregnancy) is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, diabetes prevention strategies should target women with gestational diabetes. Likewise, other common disorders of pregnancy possibly associated with insulin resistance, such as preeclampsia (a condition in which affected women have high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in their urine) and gestational hypertension (high blood pressure associated with pregnancy), may lead to the future development of type 2 diabetes. So women with these conditions may also benefit from diabetes prevention strategies. Therefore, in this large database study from Ontario, Canada, the researchers examined whether pregnant women with preeclampsia or gestational hypertension had an increased risk of developing diabetes in the years following pregnancy even if they did not have gestational diabetes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a comprehensive Canadian health database to identify all women age 15 to 50 years of age who delivered in an Ontario hospital between April 1994 and March 2008. They then identified women who had preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, or gestational diabetes through hospital records and outpatient information. The researchers then used records from the Ontario Diabetes Database to record whether these women went on to develop diabetes in the period from 180 days after delivery until March 2011.
Using these methods, the researchers identified 1,010,068 pregnant women suitable for analysis, of whom 22,933 had only preeclampsia, 27,605 had only gestational hypertension, and 30,852 had only gestational diabetes: 2,100 women had both gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension and 1,476 women had gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Overall, 35,077 women developed diabetes (3.5%) in the follow-up period (median of 8.5 years) at a median age of 37 years. In a modeling analysis, the researchers found that women with gestational diabetes had a 15-fold increased rate of developing diabetes compared to women without gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia, while women with gestational diabetes plus either preeclampsia or gestational hypertension had a 20- to 21-fold increased rate. These results were slightly reduced after adjusting for age, income quintile, hypertension prior to pregnancy, and co-morbidity, giving a hazard ratio (HR) of 1.95 for gestational hypertension alone, an HR of 2.08 for preeclampsia alone, an HR of 12.77 for gestational diabetes alone, an HR of 18.49 for gestational diabetes plus gestational hypertension and finally, an HR of 15.75 for gestational diabetes plus preeclampsia.
These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that both preeclampsia and gestational hypertension without gestational diabetes are associated with a 2-fold increased incidence of diabetes in the years following pregnancy after controlling for several important variables. When combined with gestational diabetes, these conditions were associated with a further elevation in diabetes incidence additional to the 13-fold increased incidence resulting from gestational diabetes alone. A limitation of this study was the lack of information on obesity and body mass index, factors which are also associated with increased risk of developing diabetes. Nevertheless, these findings highlight a possible new risk factor for diabetes, and suggest that clinicians should be aware of the need for preventative measures and vigilant screening for diabetes in women with a history of preeclampsia or gestational hypertension.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
NHS Choices has information about preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and gestational hypertension
Living with diabetes is a useful resource for patients with diabetes
The Preeclampsia Foundation has more information about preeclampsia
PMCID: PMC3627640  PMID: 23610560
7.  Incident HIV during Pregnancy and Postpartum and Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001608.
Alison Drake and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy and the postpartum period and to compare mother-to-child HIV transmission risk among women with incident versus chronic infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Women may have persistent risk of HIV acquisition during pregnancy and postpartum. Estimating risk of HIV during these periods is important to inform optimal prevention approaches. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy/postpartum and to compare mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk among women with incident versus chronic infection.
Methods and Findings
We searched PubMed, Embase, and AIDS-related conference abstracts between January 1, 1980, and October 31, 2013, for articles and abstracts describing HIV acquisition during pregnancy/postpartum. The inclusion criterion was studies with data on recent HIV during pregnancy/postpartum. Random effects models were constructed to pool HIV incidence rates, cumulative HIV incidence, hazard ratios (HRs), or odds ratios (ORs) summarizing the association between pregnancy/postpartum status and HIV incidence, and MTCT risk and rates. Overall, 1,176 studies met the search criteria, of which 78 met the inclusion criterion, and 47 contributed data. Using data from 19 cohorts representing 22,803 total person-years, the pooled HIV incidence rate during pregnancy/postpartum was 3.8/100 person-years (95% CI 3.0–4.6): 4.7/100 person-years during pregnancy and 2.9/100 person-years postpartum (p = 0.18). Pooled cumulative HIV incidence was significantly higher in African than non-African countries (3.6% versus 0.3%, respectively; p<0.001). Risk of HIV was not significantly higher among pregnant (HR 1.3, 95% CI 0.5–2.1) or postpartum women (HR 1.1, 95% CI 0.6–1.6) than among non-pregnant/non-postpartum women in five studies with available data. In African cohorts, MTCT risk was significantly higher among women with incident versus chronic HIV infection in the postpartum period (OR 2.9, 95% CI 2.2–3.9) or in pregnancy/postpartum periods combined (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2–4.4). However, the small number of studies limited power to detect associations and sources of heterogeneity.
Pregnancy and the postpartum period are times of persistent HIV risk, at rates similar to “high risk” cohorts. MTCT risk was elevated among women with incident infections. Detection and prevention of incident HIV in pregnancy/postpartum should be prioritized, and is critical to decrease MTCT.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, about 3.4 million children younger than 15 years old (mostly living in sub-Saharan Africa) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS by gradually destroying immune system cells, thereby leaving infected individuals susceptible to other serious infections. In 2012 alone, 230,000 children (more than 700 every day) were newly infected with HIV. Most HIV infections among children are the result of mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. The rate of MTCT (and deaths among HIV-positive pregnant women from complications related to HIV infection) can be greatly reduced by testing women for HIV infection during pregnancy (antenatal HIV testing), treating HIV-positive women with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs, powerful drugs that control HIV replication and allow the immune system to recover) during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding, and giving ARVs to their newborn babies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have developed a global plan that aims to move towards eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and towards keeping their mothers alive. To ensure the plan's success, the incidence of HIV (the number of new infections) among women and the rate of MTCT must be reduced by increasing ARV uptake by mothers and their infants for the prevention of MTCT. However, the risk of HIV infection among pregnant women and among women who have recently given birth (postpartum women) is poorly understood because, although guidelines recommend repeat HIV testing during late pregnancy or at delivery in settings where HIV infection is common, pregnant women are often tested only once for HIV infection. The lack of retesting represents a missed opportunity to identify pregnant and postpartum women who have recently acquired HIV and to prevent MTCT by initiating ARV therapy. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a study that uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies), the researchers estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and compare the risk of MTCT among women with incident (new) and chronic (long-standing) HIV infection.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 47 studies (35 undertaken in Africa) that examined recent HIV acquisition by women during pregnancy and the 12-month postpartum period. They used random effects statistical models to estimate the pooled HIV incidence rate and cumulative HIV incidence (the number of new infections per number of people at risk), and the association between pregnancy/postpartum status and HIV incidence and MTCT risk and rates. The pooled HIV incidence rate among pregnant/postpartum women estimated from 19 studies (all from sub-Saharan Africa) that reported HIV incidence rates was 3.8/100 person-years. The pooled cumulative HIV incidence was significantly higher in African countries than in non-African countries (3.6% and 0.3%, respectively; a “significant” difference is one that is unlikely to arise by chance). In the five studies that provided suitable data, the risk of HIV acquisition was similar in pregnant, postpartum, and non-pregnant/non-postpartum women. Finally, among African women, the risk of MTCT was 2.9-fold higher during the postpartum period among those who had recently acquired HIV than among those with chronic HIV infection, and 2.3-fold higher during the pregnancy/postpartum periods combined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that women living in regions where HIV infection is common are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection during pregnancy and the postpartum period and that mothers who acquire HIV during pregnancy or postpartum are more likely to pass the infection on to their offspring than mothers with chronic HIV infections. However, the small number of studies included in this meta-analysis and the use of heterogeneous research methodologies in these studies may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings have important implications for the global plan to eliminate HIV infections in children. First, they suggest that women living in regions where HIV infection is common should be offered repeat HIV testing (using sensitive methods to enhance early detection of infection) during pregnancy and in the postpartum period to detect incident HIV infections, and should be promptly referred to HIV care and treatment. Second, they suggest that prevention of HIV transmission during pregnancy and postpartum should be prioritized, for example, by counseling women about the need to use condoms to prevent transmission during this period of their lives.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children and HIV/AIDS and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report provides information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; the 2013 UNAIDS Progress Report on the Global Plan provides information on progress towards eliminating new HIV infections among children; the UNAIDS Believe it. Do it website provides information about the campaign to support the UNAIDS global plan
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS, including stories from young people infected with HIV, are available through Avert, NAM/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3934828  PMID: 24586123
8.  Elevation in D-dimer concentrations is positively correlated with gestation in normal uncomplicated pregnancy 
D-dimer levels have been reported to increase progressively during pregnancy, but how this affects Nigerian women is not well known.
This study aims to determine the D-dimer concentration and its relationship to other coagulation parameters among pregnant women in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
In a cross-sectional observational study conducted in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 120 pregnant women and 60 nonpregnant controls, drawn from a tertiary health institution in the Niger Delta, Nigeria, were assessed, using the standard procedures, for the following parameters: D-dimer concentration, prothrombin time, activated partial thromboplastin time, platelet count, hemoglobin, and packed cell volume.
The median D-dimer concentration of 153.1 ng/mL in the pregnant group was found to be significantly elevated when compared with the control value of 118.5 ng/mL (t = 2.348, P = 0.021). Conversely, there was a marked depression in the platelet count among pregnant women (193.5 × 109/L) when compared with 229.0 × 109/L in the control group (t = 3.424; P = 0.001). There was no statistically significant difference in the values for the prothrombin time and the activated partial thromboplastin time between pregnant and nonpregnant women. D-dimer values correlated positively and significantly with gestation (r = 0.36; P < 0.01) and negatively with international normalized ratio values (r = −0.281; P < 0.05). About 63.3% of the pregnant women had normal D-dimer values (0–200 ng/mL), 26.7% of the pregnant women had elevated D-dimer levels (201–499 ng/mL), while 10.0% of the pregnant women were found to be at risk of thrombosis (D-dimer > 500 ng/mL). A linear relationship was found to exist between D-dimer and gestation (y = 8.355x + 36.55; R2 = 0.130; P < 0.005).
10% of the pregnant women in this population had elevated D-dimer levels over 500 ng/mL, and through comparison with what has been reported in the literature, there is the possibility that this group may be at risk of thrombosis. Further studies, incorporating other diagnostic parameters, may be needed before a more logical conclusion can be drawn, since the D-dimer is not a specific test.
PMCID: PMC3469224  PMID: 23071413
D-dimer; prothrombin time; activated partial thromboplastin time; pregnancy; Nigeria
9.  Red blood cell folate levels in pregnant women with a history of mood disorders: a case series 
Maternal folate supplementation reduces offspring risk for neural tube defects (NTDs) and other congenital abnormalities. Maternal red blood cell (RBC) folate concentrations of >906nmol/L have been associated with the lowest risk of having an NTD affected pregnancy. Mood disorders (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder) are common among women and can be associated with folate deficiency. Thus, pregnant women with histories of mood disorders may be prone to RBC folate levels insufficient to provide optimal protection against NTDs. While previous studies have assessed RBC folate concentrations in pregnant women from the general population, none have looked specifically at a group of pregnant women who have a history of a mood disorder.
We collected data about RBC folate concentrations and folic acid supplement intake during early pregnancy (<161days gestation) from n=24 women with histories of mood disorders. We also collected information about offspring congenital abnormalities and birthweight.
Among women with histories of mood disorders, the mean RBC folate concentration was 674 nmol/L (range: 362 –1105nmol/L). Only 12.5% (n=3) of the women had an RBC folate concentrations >906nmol/L, despite all participants reporting current daily use of folic acid supplements. Data regarding offspring were available for 22 women: birthweights ranged from 2296g to 4819g, and congenital abnormalities were identified in two (hypoplastic left heart, annular pancreas).
Data from this exploratory case series suggest a need for future larger scale controlled studies investigating RBC folate concentrations in early pregnancy and offspring outcomes among women with and without histories of mood disorders.
PMCID: PMC3951991  PMID: 23760977 CAMSID: cams3096
folic acid; folate; pregnancy; mood disorders; depression; birth defects; congenital abnormalities
10.  Insulin Resistance and Serum Levels of Interleukin-17 and Interleukin-18 in Normal Pregnancy 
Immune Network  2014;14(3):149-155.
We performed this study to evaluate the role of Interleukin-17 (IL-17) and Interleukin-18 (IL-18) in insulin resistance during normal pregnancy. This descriptive cross sectional study was carried out on 97 healthy pregnant women including 32, 25, and 40 individuals in the first, second, and third trimesters, respectively, and on 28 healthy non pregnant women between the autumn of 2012 and the spring of 2013. We analyzed the serum concentrations of IL-17 and IL-18 by using the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Insulin resistance was measured by homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance equation. No significant differences between the demographic data of the pregnant and non pregnant groups were observed. Insulin resistant in pregnant women was significantly higher than the controls (p=0.006). Serum IL-17 concentration was significantly different in non pregnant women and pregnant women in all gestational ages (p<0.05). Serum IL-18 level was significantly lower in subjects with first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy in compared to non pregnant women (p<0.05). No significant correlations were found between serum IL-17 and IL-18 levels with insulin resistance (r=0.08, p=0.34 vs. r=0.01, p=0.91, respectively). Our data suggested that IL-17 and IL-18 do not appear to attribute greatly to pregnancy deduced insulin resistance during normal pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC4079821  PMID: 24999311
Insulin resistance; Interleukin-17; Interleukin-18; Pregnancy
11.  Plasma Fibronectin Concentration in Obese/Overweight Pregnant Women: A Possible Risk Factor for Preeclampsia 
Plasma fibronectin (FN) levels in obese/overweight and non-obese pregnant women were evaluated as a possible risk factor for preeclampsia. A total of one hundred and sixty three pregnant women attending antenatal clinic at University of Calabar Teaching Hospital participated in the study and sixty non-pregnant women served as control. About 77 (47.24%) of the pregnant women were followed up for any subsequent development of preeclampsia during the pregnancy. Fibronectin levels in plasma were measured by ELISA assay and serum total protein, urea and creatinine were determined spectrophotometrically. The mean plasma FN concentration of non-obese pregnant women in first trimester was lower than those of the non-pregnant women by 24%, but however, increased to the non-pregnant level in second and third trimesters. Obese/overweight pregnant women had significantly (P < 0.05) higher values than non-obese pregnant women in second and third trimesters. FN in obese/overweight pregnant women correlated positively with mean arterial blood pressure (MAP: r = 0.414, P = 0.04). About 28.57% of the pregnant women with FN above cut off point of 330 μg/ml at 18–24 weeks of gestation developed preeclampsia. This value increased to 40.0% when only the obese/overweight women were considered. On analysis of both fibronectin >330 μg/ml and MAP > 90, the predictive value increased to 66.7%. We therefore conclude that elevated FN may be regarded as a risk factor of preeclampsia especially among the obese women.
PMCID: PMC3107410  PMID: 22468048
Fibronectin; Obesity; Arterial pressure; Risk factor; Pregnancy; Preeclampsia
12.  Pulse Wave Analysis in Normal Pregnancy: A Prospective Longitudinal Study 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6134.
Outside pregnancy, arterial pulse wave analysis provides valuable information in hypertension and vascular disease. Studies in pregnancy using this technique show that vascular stiffness is raised in women with established pre-eclampsia. We aimed to establish normal ranges for parameters of pulse wave analysis in normal pregnancy and to compare different ethnic groups.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This prospective study was conducted at The Homerton University Hospital, London between January 2006 and March 2007. Using applanation tonometry, the radial artery pulse waveform was recorded and the aortic waveform derived. Augmentation pressure (AP) and Augmentation Index at heart rate 75/min (AIx-75), measures of arterial stiffness, were calculated.
We recruited 665 women with singleton pregnancies. Women who developed pre-eclampsia (n = 24, 3.6%) or gestational hypertension (n = 36, 5.4%) were excluded. We also excluded 47 women with other pregnancy complications or incomplete follow-up, leaving 541 healthy normotensive pregnant women for subsequent analysis. In the overall group of 541 women, there were no significant changes in AP or AIx-75 as pregnancy progressed. In 45 women followed longitudinally, AP and AIx-75 fell significantly from the first to the second trimester, then rose again in the third (P<0.001). The two main ethnic groups represented were Caucasian (n = 229) and Afrocaribbean (n = 216). There were no significant differences in AP or AIx-75 in any trimester between these two ethnic groups.
This study is the largest to date of pulse wave analysis in normal pregnancy, the first to report on a subset of women studied longitudinally, and the first to investigate the effect of ethnicity. These data provide the foundation for further investigation into the potential role of this technique in vascular disorders in pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC2700961  PMID: 19578538
13.  Folic acid use in pregnant patients presenting to the emergency department 
The US Preventive Services Task Force has recommended daily folic acid supplementation for women planning on becoming pregnant in an effort to prevent fetal neural tube defects. We evaluated pregnant patients presenting to the emergency department to determine rates of folic acid supplementation.
We surveyed a convenience sample of pregnant patients who presented to the University of Utah Emergency Department (ED) between 1 January 2008, and 30 April 2009, regarding pregnancy history and prior medical care.
One hundred thirty-five patients participated in the study. Eighty-four patients (62.2%) reported current folic acid supplementation. Sixty-six patients identified themselves as Caucasian and 69 as non-Caucasian race. There was a significant difference in folic acid use between Caucasian and non-Caucasian women (p = 0.035). The majority of Caucasian women (71.2%) reported daily folic acid use versus approximately one-half of non-Caucasian women (53.6%). Both groups were similar in accessing a primary care provider (PCP) for pregnancy care prior to the ED visit (53% vs. 49.3%, p = 0.663), and rates of folic acid use were similar in those who had seen a PCP (85.7% vs. 76.5%, p = 0.326). Language did not have a significant association with folic acid use.
A large percentage of pregnant ED patients did not report current folic use, and there was a significant difference between Caucasian and non-Caucasian women in rates of folic acid supplementation. This study highlights the potential role of the ED in screening patients for folic acid supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3145558  PMID: 21702941
14.  Hookworm-Related Anaemia among Pregnant Women: A Systematic Review 
Background and Objectives
Hookworm infection is among the major causes of anaemia in poor communities, but its importance in causing maternal anaemia is poorly understood, and this has hampered effective lobbying for the inclusion of anthelmintic treatment in maternal health packages. We sought to review existing evidence on the role of hookworm as a risk factor for anaemia among pregnant women. We also estimate the number of hookworm infections in pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Structured searches using MEDLINE and EMBASE as well as manual searches of reference lists were conducted, and unpublished data were obtained by contacting authors. Papers were independently reviewed by two authors, and relevant data were extracted. We compared haemoglobin concentration (Hb) according to intensity of hookworm infection and calculated standardised mean differences and 95% confidence intervals. To estimate the number of pregnant women, we used population surfaces and a spatial model of hookworm prevalence.
One hundred and five reports were screened and 19 were eligible for inclusion: 13 cross-sectional studies, 2 randomised controlled trials, 2 non-randomised treatment trials and 2 observational studies. Comparing uninfected women and women lightly (1–1,999 eggs/gram [epg]) infected with hookworm, the standardised mean difference (SMD) was −0.24 (95% CI: −0.36 to −0.13). The SMD between women heavily (4000+ epg) infected and those lightly infected was −0.57 (95% CI: −0.87 to −0.26). All identified intervention studies showed a benefit of deworming for maternal or child health, but since a variety of outcomes measures were employed, quantitative evaluation was not possible. We estimate that 37.7 million women of reproductive age in SSA are infected with hookworm in 2005 and that approximately 6.9 million pregnant women are infected.
Evidence indicates that increasing hookworm infection intensity is associated with lower haemoglobin levels in pregnant women in poor countries. There are insufficient data to quantify the benefits of deworming, and further studies are warranted. Given that between a quarter and a third of pregnant women in SSA are infected with hookworm and at risk of preventable hookworm-related anaemia, efforts should be made to increase the coverage of anthelmintic treatment among pregnant women.
Author Summary
Anaemia affects large numbers of pregnant women in developing countries and increases their risk of dying during pregnancy and delivering low birth weight babies, who in turn are at increased risk of dying. Human hookworm infection has long been recognized among the major causes of anaemia in poor communities, but understanding of the benefits of the management of hookworm infection in pregnancy has lagged behind the other major causes of maternal anaemia. Low coverage of anthelmintic treatment in maternal health programmes in many countries has been the result. After systematically reviewing the available literature we observed that increasing hookworm infection intensity is associated with lower haemoglobin levels in pregnant women. We also estimate that between a quarter and a third of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with hookworm and at risk of preventable hookworm-related anaemia. However, all identified intervention studies showed a benefit of deworming for maternal or child health and we argue that increased efforts should be made to increase the coverage of anthelmintic treatment among pregnant women.
PMCID: PMC2553481  PMID: 18820740
15.  Influence of Body Weight, Ethnicity, Oral Contraceptives, and Pregnancy on the Pharmacokinetics of Azithromycin in Women of Childbearing Age 
Women of childbearing age commonly receive azithromycin for the treatment of community-acquired infections, including during pregnancy. This study determined azithromycin pharmacokinetics in pregnant and nonpregnant women and identified covariates contributing to pharmacokinetic variability. Plasma samples were collected by using a sparse-sampling strategy from pregnant women at a gestational age of 12 to 40 weeks and from nonpregnant women of childbearing age receiving oral azithromycin for the treatment of an infection. Pharmacokinetic data from extensive sampling conducted on 12 healthy women were also included. Plasma samples were assayed for azithromycin by high-performance liquid chromatography. Population data were analyzed by nonlinear mixed-effects modeling. The population analysis included 53 pregnant and 25 nonpregnant women. A three-compartment model with first-order absorption and a lag time provided the best fit of the data. Lean body weight, pregnancy, ethnicity, and the coadministration of oral contraceptives were covariates identified as significantly influencing the oral clearance of azithromycin and, except for oral contraceptive use, intercompartmental clearance between the central and second peripheral compartments. No other covariate relationships were identified. Compared to nonpregnant women not receiving oral contraceptives, a 21% to 42% higher dose-adjusted azithromycin area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC) occurred in non-African American women who were pregnant or receiving oral contraceptives. Conversely, azithromycin AUCs were similar between pregnant African American women and nonpregnant women not receiving oral contraceptives. Although higher levels of maternal and fetal azithromycin exposure suggest that lower doses be administered to non-African American women during pregnancy, the consideration of azithromycin pharmacodynamics during pregnancy should guide any dose adjustments.
PMCID: PMC3264225  PMID: 22106226
16.  Folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy in the Newborn Epigenetics STudy (NEST) 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:46.
Folic acid (FA) added to foods during fortification is 70-85% bioavailable compared to 50% of folate occurring naturally in foods. Thus, if FA supplements also are taken during pregnancy, both mother and fetus can be exposed to FA exceeding the Institute of Medicine's recommended tolerable upper limit (TUL) of 1,000 micrograms per day (μg/d) for adult pregnant women. The primary objective is to estimate the proportion of women taking folic acid (FA) doses exceeding the TUL before and during pregnancy, and to identify correlates of high FA use.
During 2005-2008, pre-pregnancy and pregnancy-related data on dietary supplementation were obtained by interviewing 539 pregnant women enrolled at two obstetrics-care facilities in Durham County, North Carolina.
Before pregnancy, 51% of women reported FA supplementation and 66% reported this supplementation during pregnancy. Before pregnancy, 11.9% (95% CI = 9.2%-14.6%) of women reported supplementation with FA doses above the TUL of 1,000 μg/day, and a similar proportion reported this intake prenatally. Before pregnancy, Caucasian women were more likely to take FA doses above the TUL (OR = 2.99; 95% = 1.28-7.00), compared to African American women, while women with chronic conditions were less likely to take FA doses above the TUL (OR = 0.48; 95%CI = 0.21-0.97). Compared to African American women, Caucasian women were also more likely to report FA intake in doses exceeding the TUL during pregnancy (OR = 5.09; 95%CI = 2.07-12.49).
Fifty-one percent of women reported some FA intake before and 66% during pregnancy, respectively, and more than one in ten women took FA supplements in doses that exceeded the TUL. Caucasian women were more likely to report high FA intake. A study is ongoing to identify possible genetic and non-genotoxic effects of these high doses.
PMCID: PMC3038155  PMID: 21255390
17.  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
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).
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
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
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)
PMCID: PMC3708703  PMID: 23853552
18.  A population pharmacokinetic model of piperaquine in pregnant and non-pregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Sudan 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:398.
Pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of developing a malaria infection and a higher risk of developing severe malaria. The pharmacokinetic properties of many anti-malarials are also altered during pregnancy, often resulting in a decreased drug exposure. Piperaquine is a promising anti-malarial partner drug used in a fixed-dose combination with dihydroartemisinin. The aim of this study was to investigate the population pharmacokinetics of piperaquine in pregnant and non-pregnant Sudanese women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria.
Symptomatic patients received a standard dose regimen of the fixed dose oral piperaquine-dihydroartemisinin combination treatment. Densely sampled plasma aliquots were collected and analysed using a previously described LC-MS/MS method. Data from 12 pregnant and 12 non-pregnant women were analysed using nonlinear mixed-effects modelling. A Monte Carlo Mapped Power (MCMP) analysis was conducted based on a previously published study to evaluate the power of detecting covariates in this relatively small study.
A three-compartment disposition model with a transit-absorption model described the observed data well. Body weight was added as an allometric function on all clearance and volume parameters. A statistically significant decrease in estimated terminal piperaquine half-life in pregnant compared with non-pregnant women was found, but there were no differences in post-hoc estimates of total piperaquine exposure. The MCMP analysis indicated a minimum of 13 pregnant and 13 non-pregnant women were required to identify pregnancy as a covariate on relevant pharmacokinetic parameters (80% power and p=0.05). Pregnancy was, therefore, evaluated as a categorical and continuous covariate (i.e. estimate gestational age) in a full covariate approach. Using this approach pregnancy was not associated with any major change in piperaquine elimination clearance. However, a trend of increasing elimination clearance with increasing gestational age could be seen.
The population pharmacokinetic properties of piperaquine were well described by a three-compartment disposition model in pregnant and non-pregnant women with uncomplicated malaria. The modelling approach showed no major difference in piperaquine exposure between the two groups and data presented here do not warrant a dose adjustment in pregnancy in this vulnerable population.
PMCID: PMC3551687  PMID: 23190801
Malaria; Piperaquine; Pregnancy; Population pharmacokinetics; Nonlinear mixed-effects modelling
19.  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Artemether-Lumefantrine Versus Artesunate for Uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum Treatment in Pregnancy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e253.
To date no comparative trials have been done, to our knowledge, of fixed-dose artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) for the treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in pregnancy. Evidence on the safety and efficacy of ACTs in pregnancy is needed as these drugs are being used increasingly throughout the malaria-affected world. The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of artemether-lumefantrine, the most widely used fixed ACT, with 7 d artesunate monotherapy in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.
Methods and Findings
An open-label randomised controlled trial comparing directly observed treatment with artemether-lumefantrine 3 d (AL) or artesunate monotherapy 7 d (AS7) was conducted in Karen women in the border area of northwestern Thailand who had uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The primary endpoint was efficacy defined as the P. falciparum PCR-adjusted cure rates assessed at delivery or by day 42 if this occurred later than delivery, as estimated by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. Infants were assessed at birth and followed until 1 y of life. Blood sampling was performed to characterise the pharmacokinetics of lumefantrine in pregnancy. Both regimens were very well tolerated. The cure rates (95% confidence interval) for the intention to treat (ITT) population were: AS7 89.2% (82.3%–96.1%) and AL 82.0% (74.8%–89.3%), p = 0.054 (ITT); and AS7 89.7% (82.6%–96.8%) and AL 81.2% (73.6%–88.8%), p = 0.031 (per-protocol population). One-third of the PCR-confirmed recrudescent cases occurred after 42 d of follow-up. Birth outcomes and infant (up to age 1 y) outcomes did not differ significantly between the two groups. The pharmacokinetic study indicated that low concentrations of artemether and lumefantrine were the main contributors to the poor efficacy of AL.
The current standard six-dose artemether-lumefantrine regimen was well tolerated and safe in pregnant Karen women with uncomplicated falciparum malaria, but efficacy was inferior to 7 d artesunate monotherapy and was unsatisfactory for general deployment in this geographic area. Reduced efficacy probably results from low drug concentrations in later pregnancy. A longer or more frequent AL dose regimen may be needed to treat pregnant women effectively and should now be evaluated. Parasitological endpoints in clinical trials of any antimalarial drug treatment in pregnancy should be extended to delivery or day 42 if it comes later.
Trial Registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN86353884
Rose McGready and colleagues show that an artemether-lumefantrine regimen is well tolerated and safe in pregnant Karen women with uncomplicated falciparum malaria, but efficacy is inferior to artesunate, probably because of low drug concentrations in later pregnancy.
Editors' Summary
Plasmodium falciparum, a mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria, kills nearly one million people every year. Although most deaths occur among young children, malaria during pregnancy is also an important public-health problem. In areas where malaria transmission is high (stable transmission), women acquire a degree of immunity. Although less symptomatic than women who lack natural protection, their babies are often small and sickly because malaria-related anemia (lack of red blood cells) and parasites in the placenta limit the nutrients supplied to the baby before birth. By contrast, in areas where malaria transmission is low (unstable transmission or sporadic outbreaks), women have little immunity to P. falciparum. If these women become infected during pregnancy, “uncomplicated” malaria (fever, chills, and anemia) can rapidly progress to “severe” malaria (in which vital organs are damaged), which can be fatal to the mother and/or her unborn child unless prompt and effective treatment is given.
Why Was This Study Done?
Malaria parasites are now resistant to many of the older antimalarial drugs (for example, quinine). So, since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that uncomplicated malaria during the second and third trimester of pregnancy is treated with short course (3 d) fixed-dose artemisinin combination therapy (ACT; quinine is still used in early pregnancy because it is not known whether ACT damages fetal development, which mainly occurs during the first 3 mo of pregnancy). Artemisinin derivatives are fast-acting antimalarial agents that are used in combination with another antimalarial drug to reduce the chances of P. falciparum becoming resistant to either drug. The most widely used fixed-dose ACT is artemether–lumefantrine (AL) but, although several trials have examined the safety and efficacy of this treatment in non-pregnant women, little is known about how well it works in pregnant women. In this study, the researchers compare the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of AL with a 7-d course of artesunate monotherapy (AS7; another artemisinin derivative) in the treatment of uncomplicated malaria in pregnancy in northwest Thailand, an area with unstable but highly drug resistant malaria transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 253 women with uncomplicated malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy into their open-label trial (a trial in which the patients and their health-care workers know who is receiving which drug regimen). Half the women received each type of treatment. The trial's main outcome was the “PCR-adjusted cure rate” at delivery or 42 d after treatment if this occurred after delivery. This cure rate was assessed by examining blood smears for parasites and then using a technique called PCR to determine which cases of malaria were new infections (classified as treatment successes along with negative blood smears) and which were recurrences of an old infection (classified as treatment failures). The PCR-adjusted cure rates were 89.7% and 81.2% for AS7 and AL, respectively. Both treatments were well tolerated, few side effects were seen with either treatment, and infant health and development at birth and up to 1 y old were similar with both regimens. Finally, an analysis of blood samples taken 7 d after treatment with AL showed that blood levels of lumefantrine were below those previously associated with treatment failure in about a third of the women tested.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings indicate that the AL regimen is a well tolerated and safe treatment for uncomplicated malaria in pregnant women living in northwest Thailand, the efficacy of this treatment was lower than that of artesunate monotherapy. In fact, neither treatment reached the 90% cure rate recommended by WHO for ACTs and it is likely that cure rates in a more realistic situation (that is, not in a trial where efforts are made to make sure everyone completes their treatment) would be even lower. The findings also suggest that the reduced efficacy of the AL regimen in pregnant women compared to the efficacy previously seen in non-pregnant women may be caused by lower drug blood levels during pregnancy. Thus, a higher-dose AL regimen (or an alternative ACT) may be needed to successfully treat uncomplicated malaria during pregnancy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia contains a page on malaria (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages), and their 2006 Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria includes specific recommendations for the treatment of pregnant women
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria and on malaria during pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on malaria during pregnancy, on artemisinin-based combination therapies, and on malaria in Thailand
PMCID: PMC2605900  PMID: 19265453
20.  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.
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).
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
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
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)
PMCID: PMC2776277  PMID: 19956761
21.  Pregnancy and Race/Ethnicity as Predictors of Motivation for Drug Treatment 
While drug use during pregnancy represents substantial obstetrical risks to mother and baby, little research has examined motivation for drug treatment among pregnant women. We analyzed data collected between 2000 and 2007 from 149 drug-using women located in Baltimore, Maryland. We hypothesized that pregnant drug-using women would be more likely than their non-pregnant counterparts to express greater motivation for treatment. Also, we explored race/ethnicity differences in motivation for treatment. Propensity scores were used to match a sample of 49 pregnant drug-using women with 100 non-pregnant drug-using women. A factor analysis using 11 items from a readiness for treatment scale was used to create a dichotomous outcome variable representing higher and lower levels of motivation for treatment. The first logistic regression model indicated that pregnant women were more than four times as likely as non-pregnant women to express greater motivation for treatment. The second logistic regression analysis indicated a significant interaction between pregnancy status and race/ethnicity, such that white pregnant women were nearly eight times as likely as African-American pregnant women to score higher on the motivation for treatment measure. These results suggest that African-American pregnant drug-using women should be targeted for interventions that increase their motivation for treatment.
PMCID: PMC2714164  PMID: 18584569
Pregnant drug-users; race/ethnicity; motivation for treatment
22.  Effect of balanced protein energy supplementation during pregnancy on birth outcomes 
BMC Public Health  2011;11(Suppl 3):S17.
The nutritional status of the mother prior to and during pregnancy plays a vital role in fetal growth and development, and maternal undernourishment may lead to adverse perinatal outcomes including intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Several macronutrient interventions had been proposed for adequate protein and energy supplementation during pregnancy. The objective of this paper was to review the effect of balanced protein energy supplementation during pregnancy on birth outcomes. This paper is a part of a series of reviews undertaken for getting estimates of effectiveness of an intervention for input to Lives Saved Tool (LiST) model.
A literature search was conducted on PubMed, Cochrane Library and WHO regional data bases to identify randomized trials (RCTs) and quasi RCTs that evaluated the impact of balanced protein energy supplementation in pregnancy. Balanced protein energy supplementation was defined as nutritional supplementation during pregnancy in which proteins provided less than 25% of the total energy content. Those studies were excluded in which the main intervention was dietary advice to pregnant women for increase in protein energy intake, high protein supplementation (i.e. supplementation in which protein provides at least 25% of total energy content), isocaloric protein supplementation (where protein replaces an equal quantity of non-protein energy content), or low energy diet to pregnant women who are either overweight or who exhibit high weight gain earlier in gestation. The primary outcomes were incidence of small for gestational age (SGA) birth, mean birth weight and neonatal mortality. Quality of evidence was evaluated according to the Child Health Epidemiology Reference group (CHERG) adaptation of Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria.
The final number of studies included in our review was eleven comprising of both RCTs and quasi-RCTs. Our meta-analysis indicates that providing pregnant females with balanced protein energy supplementation resulted in a significant reduction of 31 % in the risk of giving birth to small for gestational age infants (Relative risk (RR) =0.69, 95% Confidence interval (CI) 0.56 to 0.85). This estimate had been recommended for LiST as a proxy for reduction in IUGR. Pooled results for mean birth weight showed that balanced protein supplemented group gained more weight compared to control [Mean difference 59.89 g, 95 % CI 33.09-86.68]. This effect was more pronounced in malnourished women compared to adequately nourished women. There was no statistically significant effect of balanced protein energy supplementation on neonatal mortality (RR= 0.63, 95% CI 0.37 to 1.06).
Providing pregnant females with balanced protein energy supplementation leads to reduction in risk of small for gestational age infants, especially among undernourished pregnant women. Given these findings, we can recommend balanced protein energy supplementation as an intervention among undernourished women for inclusion in the LiST model with a point estimate of 31% [95% CI 15% to 44%] reduction in IUGR.
PMCID: PMC3231890  PMID: 21501434
23.  Extracellular chromosome 21-derived microRNAs in euploid & aneuploid pregnancies 
Background & objectives:
Trisomy 21 is the most common chromosomal aneuploidy in live born infants. Recently, the over expression of chromosome 21-derived microRNAs (miR-99a, let-7c, miR-125b-2, miR-155 and miR-802) in human fetal hippocampus and heart samples from individuals with Down syndrome was observed. Therefore, concentrations and expression profile of extracellular chromosome 21-derived microRNAs were studied to verify their ability to distinguish noninvasively between pregnancies bearing euploid fetuses and those affected with Down syndrome.
RNA enriched for small RNAs was isolated from plasma samples of 12 pregnant women with high risk of bearing Down syndrome foetuses (median gestation 18.5 wk), 12 women with normal course of gestation and 10 non-pregnant women. MicroRNA transcribed into cDNA using specific stem-loop primer was detected using real-time PCR assay. Simulation experiments using RNA pools of healthy non-pregnant individuals and aneuploid amniotic fluid samples in descending dilution ratio ranging from 1:1 to 1000:1 were used to test the detection limit of the technique for overexpressed chromosome 21-derived microRNAs specific for Down syndrome. The expression profile of the gene encoding microRNA was studied through the relative gene expression using the comparative Ct (threshold cycle) method. Concentrations of individual microRNAs were subtracted from the calibration curves in the course of analyses and expressed as pg of total RNA per milliliter of plasma.
Four of the five extracellular chromosome 21-derived microRNAs (miR-99a, let-7c, miR-125b-2 and miR-155) were reliably detected in plasma samples. Simulation experiments revealed the detection limit of aneuploidy at a ratio 100:1 for let-7c, miR-125b-2 and miR-155, and a ratio of 1000:1 for miR-99a. Overexpression of extracellular miR-99a, miR-125b-2 and miR-155 was observed in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women. Similarly, increased concentrations of extracellular miR-99a and miR-125b-2 were detected in pregnant women than in non-pregnant women. The concentrations and relative gene expression of extracellular chromosome 21-derived microRNAs did not differ between the cohorts of pregnancies bearing euploid foetuses and those affected with Down syndrome.
Interpretation & conclusions:
Analysis of extracellular chromosome 21-derived microRNAs has no benefit for screening programmes and non-invasive diagnosis of Down syndrome.
PMCID: PMC3978985  PMID: 24521639
Aneuploidy; chromosome 21; Down syndrome; maternal plasma; microRNAs; real-time PCR; screening
24.  Pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain: where is the tipping point for preterm birth? 
Obesity in pregnant women is a major problem affecting both the mother and her offspring. Literature on the effect of obesity on preterm birth is inconsistent and few studies have investigated the influence of weight gain during pregnancy. This study examined the effect of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and weight gain during pregnancy on preterm birth.
Data from the Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) on 45,824 pregnant women with singleton, live-born infants with no sever congenital anomalies was analyzed. Primary outcome variables included preterm (< 37 weeks of gestation), categorized into spontaneous preterm with and without premature rupture of membrane (PROM) and indicated preterm. Maternal BMI was categorized into underweight (BMI < 18.50), normal weight (BMI =1 8.50 – 24.99), overweight (BMI = 25.00 – 29.99), and obese (BMI ≥ 30.00). Multinomial regression analysis was conducted and OR and 95% CI were calculated.
The rate of spontaneous preterm birth with PROM among overweight women decreased with increasing weight gain but increased among women who had excessive weight gain. Similarly, a U-shaped rate of spontaneous preterm birth with and without PROM was observed in obese women. Gaining less weight was protective of spontaneous preterm with and without PROM among overweight and obese women compared to normal weight women. Among underweight women, gaining < 7 kg or 9.5-12.7 kg was associated with increased odds of indicated preterm birth. Appreciable differences were also observed in the association between pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain and the subtypes of preterm births among African Americans and Caucasian Americans.
Reduced weight gain during pregnancy among overweight and obese women is associated with reduced spontaneous preterm birth with and without PROM. Health care professionals and public health workers should be aware of this risk and adhere to the 2009 IOM guideline that recommended reduced weight gain during pregnancy for obese and overweight women.
PMCID: PMC3691770  PMID: 23706121
25.  Intermittent oral iron supplementation during pregnancy (Review) 
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.
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.
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

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