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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 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
3.  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
4.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Background
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
Conclusions
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001121.
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001121
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
5.  Changes in Association between Previous Therapeutic Abortion and Preterm Birth in Scotland, 1980 to 2008: A Historical Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001481.
Gordon C. Smith and colleagues used national databases to investigate the association between previous termination of pregnancy and preterm birth in Scotland between 1980 to 2008, and whether the type of procedure was an important factor.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Numerous studies have demonstrated that therapeutic termination of pregnancy (abortion) is associated with an increased risk of subsequent preterm birth. However, the literature is inconsistent, and methods of abortion have changed dramatically over the last 30 years. We hypothesized that the association between previous abortion and the risk of preterm first birth changed in Scotland between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 2008.
Methods and Findings
We studied linked Scottish national databases of births and perinatal deaths. We analysed the risk of preterm birth in relation to the number of previous abortions in 732,719 first births (≥24 wk), adjusting for maternal characteristics. The risk (adjusted odds ratio [95% CI]) of preterm birth was modelled using logistic regression, and associations were expressed for a one-unit increase in the number of previous abortions. Previous abortion was associated with an increased risk of preterm birth (1.12 [1.09–1.16]). When analysed by year of delivery, the association was strongest in 1980–1983 (1.32 [1.21–1.43]), progressively declined between 1984 and 1999, and was no longer apparent in 2000–2003 (0.98 [0.91–1.05]) or 2004–2008 (1.02 [0.95–1.09]). A statistical test for interaction between previous abortion and year was highly statistically significant (p<0.001). Analysis of data for abortions among nulliparous women in Scotland 1992–2008 demonstrated that the proportion that were surgical without use of cervical pre-treatment decreased from 31% to 0.4%, and that the proportion of medical abortions increased from 18% to 68%.
Conclusions
Previous abortion was a risk factor for spontaneous preterm birth in Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s, but the association progressively weakened and disappeared altogether by 2000. These changes were paralleled by increasing use of medical abortion and cervical pre-treatment prior to surgical abortion. Although it is plausible that the two trends were related, we could not test this directly as the data on the method of prior abortions were not linked to individuals in the cohort. However, we speculate that modernising abortion methods may be an effective long-term strategy to reduce global rates of preterm birth.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Therapeutic termination of pregnancy is relatively common, with an estimated 40 million procedures performed worldwide every year. Until two decades ago, most terminations were performed as a surgical procedure, but now the majority of terminations are medically induced with a combination of drugs—selective progesterone receptor antagonists, such as mifepristone, and prostaglandins—that cause less damage to the woman's cervix. Although surgical terminations are still performed, nowadays prostaglandins are also used to help prevent damage to the cervix. Protecting the woman's cervix can help to reduce the risk of spontaneous preterm birth (delivery before 37 weeks gestation) in subsequent pregnancies. As many women who have abortions go on to have subsequent births, the widespread use of termination may be a significant factor in the high global rates of preterm delivery.
Why Was This Study Done?
A previous meta-analysis (a study that combines information from several studies) showed that the risk of preterm delivery was higher in women who had had a previous termination compared to women who had not. Based on this meta-analysis, UK guidelines on the care of women requesting a termination currently recommend that they be informed of the increased risk of subsequent preterm birth. However, it is biologically plausible that women undergoing medical termination or current practice for surgical termination (using prostaglandins to protect and prepare the cervix) may not have an increased risk of subsequent preterm delivery, because such approaches may cause less trauma to the cervix than traditional surgical termination. So in this study, the researchers used a large dataset from Scotland with three decades of information about previous terminations and subsequent preterm deliveries to test this possibility.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers linked two national databases—the Scottish Morbidity Record 02 (SMR02), which records the clinical and demographic characteristics and outcomes of all patients giving birth in Scottish maternity hospitals, and the Scottish Stillbirth and Infant Death Survey (SSBIDS), which classifies all perinatal deaths in Scotland. SMR02 data were available from 1980 onwards and also recorded each woman's self-reported total number of previous abortions, and SSBIDS data were available from 1985. Then the researchers used information from NHS National Services Scotland to examine secular trends in terminations over the past few decades, specifically, whether a recorded termination was surgical or medical, and also whether surgical abortion was preceded by cervical preparation.
Using these methods, the researchers identified that there were 757,060 live, singleton first births between 1980 and 2008 and that 56,816 women reported one previous termination, 5,790 women reported two previous terminations, and 822 women reported three previous terminations. In their analysis (adjusted for maternal characteristics) the researchers found that there was an independent association of spontaneous preterm birth, but not induced preterm birth, with previous termination. The researchers calculated that the chance (odds) of spontaneous preterm birth for one, two, and three or more previous abortions was 1.17, 1.51, and 1.64, after adjusting for maternal characteristics, including smoking. Over the time period, the researchers found that the proportion of surgical terminations without use of cervical pre-treatment decreased from 31% in 1992 to 0.4% in 2008, and over the same period the proportion of medical terminations increased from 18% to 68%. These trends are important, because in their analysis by year of delivery, the researchers found that the association between preterm delivery and previous termination was strongest in 1980–1983, progressively declined between 1984 and 1999, and was no longer present from 2000 to 2008.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support the established association between previous termination and preterm delivery. But most importantly, the changes in this association over the past two decades—from strong in 1980–1983 to nonexistent in 2000–2008—a period in which the use of medical termination and pre-treatment of the cervix for surgical termination increased dramatically in Scotland, suggest that surgical termination without cervical pre-treatment is responsible for the increased risk of spontaneous preterm birth: the decrease in the proportion of this procedure over the study period may have led to the disappearance of the established association between previous termination and preterm delivery from 2000 onwards. However, these findings are limited in that the researchers could not directly test whether the two trends were related because they did not have information on the method of previous termination linked to subsequent birth outcome for individual women. However, based on the findings of this study, it is possible that using modern methods of termination of pregnancy (rather than purely surgical methods) could be a factor in reducing global rates of spontaneous preterm delivery in the future.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001481.
Wikipedia gives more information about termination of pregnancy (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
More information is available about the SMR02 dataset used in this study
The World Health Organization gives information on preterm birth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001481
PMCID: PMC3706322  PMID: 23874161
6.  Consequences of Gestational Diabetes in an Urban Hospital in Viet Nam: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001272.
Jane Hirst and colleagues determined the prevalence and outcome of gestational diabetes mellitus in urban Vietnam and found that choice of criteria greatly affected prevalence, and has implications for the ability of the health system to cope with the number of cases.
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is increasing and is a risk for type 2 diabetes. Evidence supporting screening comes mostly from high-income countries. We aimed to determine prevalence and outcomes in urban Viet Nam. We compared the proposed International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) criterion, requiring one positive value on the 75-g glucose tolerance test, to the 2010 American Diabetes Association (ADA) criterion, requiring two positive values.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective cohort study in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Study participants were 2,772 women undergoing routine prenatal care who underwent a 75-g glucose tolerance test and interview around 28 (range 24–32) wk. GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion was treated by local protocol. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion but not the ADA criterion were termed “borderline” and received standard care. 2,702 women (97.5% of cohort) were followed until discharge after delivery. GDM was diagnosed in 164 participants (6.1%) by the ADA criterion, 550 (20.3%) by the IADPSG criterion. Mean body mass index was 20.45 kg/m2 in women with out GDM, 21.10 in women with borderline GDM, and 21.81 in women with GDM, p<0.001. Women with GDM and borderline GDM were more likely to deliver preterm, with adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of 1.49 (95% CI 1.16–1.91) and 1.52 (1.03–2.24), respectively. They were more likely to have clinical neonatal hypoglycaemia, aORs of 4.94 (3.41–7.14) and 3.34 (1.41–7.89), respectively. For large for gestational age, the aORs were 1.16 (0.93–1.45) and 1.31 (0.96–1.79), respectively. There was no significant difference in large for gestational age, death, severe birth trauma, or maternal morbidity between the groups. Women with GDM underwent more labour inductions, aOR 1.51 (1.08–2.11).
Conclusions
Choice of criterion greatly affects GDM prevalence in Viet Nam. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion were at risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycaemia, although this criterion resulted in 20% of pregnant women being positive for GDM. The ability to cope with such a large number of cases and prevent associated adverse outcomes needs to be demonstrated before recommending widespread screening.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are usually controlled by insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs, and if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops, usually in mid-pregnancy. Risk factors for GDM include a high body mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or lack of physical activity during pregnancy, and glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes that is measured using the “oral glucose tolerance test”). GDM increases the risk of premature delivery, induced delivery, and having a large-for-gestational-age baby (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). It also increases the baby's risk of having low blood sugar (neonatal hypoglycemia). GDM, which can often be controlled by exercise and diet, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases the risk of diabetes developing later in both mother and baby.
Why Was This Study Done?
The prevalence (occurrence) of diabetes is increasing rapidly, particularly in low/middleincome countries as they become more affluent. Because GDM increases the subsequent risk of diabetes, some experts believe that screening for GDM should be included in prenatal care as part of diabetes preventative strategies. However, most of the evidence supporting GDM screening comes from high-income countries, so in this prospective cohort study (a study that analyses associations between the baseline characteristics of a group of patients and outcomes), the researchers investigate the prevalence of GDM (diagnosed using the oral glucose tolerance test) and the consequences of GDM among women attending an urban hospital in Viet Nam, a low/middle-income country. An oral glucose tolerance test measures a patient's blood-sugar level after an overnight fast, and one and two hours after consuming a sugary drink. The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines state, respectively, that one and two of these blood-sugar measurements must be abnormally high for a diagnosis of GDM. In this study, the researchers use both guidelines to diagnose GDM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly 3,000 women who attended the hospital for routine prenatal care had a glucose tolerance test at around 28 weeks' gestation and were followed until discharge after delivery. Women who had GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion were referred for dietary advice and glucose monitoring. Those diagnosed by the IADPSG criterion only were described as having “borderline” GDM and received standard prenatal care. GDM was diagnosed in 6.1% and 20.3% of the women using the ADA and IADPSG criteria, respectively. After allowing for other factors that might have affected outcomes, compared to women without GDM, women with GDM or borderline GDM were more likely to deliver prematurely, and their babies were more likely to have neonatal hypoglycemia. Also, women with GDM (but not borderline GDM) were more likely to have their labor induced than women without GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the criterion used to diagnose GDM markedly affected the prevalence of GDM among pregnant women attending this Vietnamese hospital—the use of the IADPSG criterion more than tripled the prevalence of GDM and meant that a fifth of the study participants were diagnosed as having GDM. Importantly, the findings also show that GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycemia. Although these findings may not be generalizable to other settings within Viet Nam or to other countries, they highlight the need to demonstrate that sufficient resources are available to cope with an increased GDM burden before recommending widespread screening using the IADPSG criterion. Moreover, because the long-term significance of GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion is not known, all the potential benefits and harms and the costs of screening and treating GDM in low-income settings need to be further investigated before any recommendation for “universal” GDM screening is made.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10. 1371/journal.pmed.1001272.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients about diabetes and about gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The American Diabetes Association also provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of diabetes, including gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) 2010 recommendations on the diagnosis and classification of gestational diabetes are available
The charity Diabetes UK provides detailed information for patients and carers, including information on gestational diabetes; its blog includes a personal story about gestational diabetes, and its website includes a selection of other stories from people with diabetes; the charity Healthtalkonline also has an interview describing a personal experience of gestational diabetes
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001272
PMCID: PMC3404117  PMID: 22911157
7.  Birth outcomes in South African women receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy: a retrospective observational study 
Background
Use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), a triple-drug combination, in HIV-infected pregnant women markedly reduces mother to child transmission of HIV and decreases maternal morbidity. However, there remains uncertainty about the effects of in utero exposure to HAART on foetal development.
Methods
Our objectives were to investigate whether in utero exposure to HAART is associated with low birth weight and/or preterm birth in a population of South African women with advanced HIV disease. A retrospective observational study was performed on women with CD4 counts ≤250 cells/mm3 attending antenatal antiretroviral clinics in Johannesburg between October 2004 and March 2007. Low birth weight (<2.5 kg) and preterm birth rates (<37 weeks) were compared between those exposed and unexposed to HAART during pregnancy. Effects of different HAART regimen and duration were assessed.
Results
Among HAART-unexposed infants, 27% (60/224) were low birth weight compared with 23% (90/388) of early HAART-exposed (exposed <28 weeks gestation) and 19% (76/407) of late HAART-exposed (exposed ≥28 weeks) infants (p = 0.05). In the early HAART group, a higher CD4 cell count was protective against low birth weight (AOR 0.57 per 50 cells/mm3 increase, 95% CI 0.45-0.71, p < 0.001) and preterm birth (AOR 0.68 per 50 cells/mm3 increase, 95% CI 0.55-0.85, p = 0.001). HAART exposure was associated with an increased preterm birth rate (15%, or 138 of 946, versus 5%, or seven of 147, in unexposed infants, p = 0.001), with early nevirapine and efavirenz-based regimens having the strongest associations with preterm birth (AOR 5.4, 95% CI 2.1-13.7, p < 0.001, and AOR 5.6, 95% CI 2.1-15.2, p = 0.001, respectively).
Conclusions
In this immunocompromised cohort, in utero HAART exposure was not associated with low birth weight. An association between NNRTI-based HAART and preterm birth was detected, but residual confounding is plausible. More advanced immunosuppression was a risk factor for low birth weight and preterm birth, highlighting the importance of earlier HAART initiation in women to optimize maternal health and improve infant outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1758-2652-14-42
PMCID: PMC3163172  PMID: 21843356
8.  Adverse birth outcomes among deliveries at Gondar University Hospital, Northwest Ethiopia 
Background
Adverse birth outcomes are major public health problems in developing countries. Data, though scarce in developing countries including Ethiopia, on adverse birth outcomes and the risk factors are important for planning maternal and child health care services. Hence, this study aimed to determine the prevalence and associated factors of adverse birth outcomes among deliveries at Gondar University Hospital, Northwest Ethiopia.
Methods
Institution based cross-sectional study was conducted in February 2013 at Gondar University Hospital. Data were collected by face-to-face interview of 490 women after verbal informed consent using a pretested and structured questionnaire. Gestational age was determined based on the last normal menstrual period. Birth weight was measured following standards. Multiple logistic regressions were fitted and odds ratios with their 95% confidence interval were computed to identify associated factors.
Results
The mean age of women was 26.2 (±5.2 SD) years. HIV infection among laboring women was 4.8%. About 23% of women had adverse birth outcomes (14.3% preterm, 11.2% low birth weight and 7.1% still births). Women having history of either preterm delivery or small baby (AOR: 3.1, 95% CI 1.1- 8.4) were more likely to have preterm births. Similarly, history of delivering preterm or small baby (AOR: 8.4, 95% CI 2.4- 29.4), preterm birth (AOR: 5.5, 95% CI 2.6- 11.6) and hypertension (AOR: 5.8, 95% CI 1.8- 19.6) were associated factors with low birth weight. Ante partum haemorrhage (AOR: 8.43, 95% CI 1.28- 55.34), hypertension (AOR: 9.5, 95% CI 2.1-44.3), history of perinatal death (AOR: 13.9, 95% CI 3.3- 58.5) and lack of antenatal care follow up (AOR: 9.7, 95% CI 2.7 - 35.8) were significantly associated with still birth.
Conclusions
Prevalence of adverse birth outcomes (still birth, preterm birth and low birth weight) were high and still a major public health problem in the area. Histories of perinatal death, delivering preterm or small baby, ante partum hemorrhage, lack of ante natal care follow up and hypertension were associated factors with adverse birth outcomes. Thus, further enhancements of ante natal and maternal care and early screening for hypertension are recommended.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-90
PMCID: PMC3996071  PMID: 24576205
Low birth weight; Preterm birth; Still birth; Northwest Ethiopia
9.  Proteomic Profiling of the Amniotic Fluid to Detect Inflammation, Infection, and Neonatal Sepsis 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(1):e18.
Background
Proteomic analysis of amniotic fluid shows the presence of biomarkers characteristic of intrauterine inflammation. We sought to validate prospectively the clinical utility of one such proteomic profile, the Mass Restricted (MR) score.
Methods and Findings
We enrolled 169 consecutive women with singleton pregnancies admitted with preterm labor or preterm premature rupture of membranes. All women had a clinically indicated amniocentesis to rule out intra-amniotic infection. A proteomic fingerprint (MR score) was generated from fresh samples of amniotic fluid using surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization (SELDI) mass spectrometry. Presence or absence of the biomarkers of the MR score was interpreted in relationship to the amniocentesis-to-delivery interval, placental inflammation, and early-onset neonatal sepsis for all neonates admitted to the Newborn Special Care Unit (n = 104). Women with “severe” amniotic fluid inflammation (MR score of 3 or 4) had shorter amniocentesis-to-delivery intervals than women with “no” (MR score of 0) inflammation or even “minimal” (MR score of 1 or 2) inflammation (median [range] MR 3–4: 0.4 d [0.0–49.6 d] versus MR 1–2: 3.8 d [0.0–151.2 d] versus MR 0: 17.0 d [0.1–94.3 d], p < 0.001). Nonetheless, a “minimal” degree of inflammation was also associated with preterm birth regardless of membrane status. There was a significant association between the MR score and severity of histological chorioamnionitis (r = 0.599, p < 0.001). Furthermore, neonatal hematological indices and early-onset sepsis significantly correlated with the MR score even after adjusting for gestational age at birth (OR for MR 3–4: 3.3 [95% CI, 1.1 to 9.2], p = 0.03). When compared with other laboratory tests routinely used to diagnose amniotic fluid inflammation and infection, the MR score had the highest accuracy to detect inflammation (white blood cell count > 100 cells/mm3), whereas the combination of Gram stain and MR score was best for rapid prediction of intra-amniotic infection (positive amniotic fluid culture).
Conclusions
High MR scores are associated with preterm delivery, histological chorioamnionitis, and early-onset neonatal sepsis. In this study, proteomic analysis of amniotic fluid was shown to be the most accurate test for diagnosis of intra-amniotic inflammation, whereas addition of the MR score to the Gram stain provides the best combination of tests to rapidly predict infection.
Proteomic analysis of amniotic fluid in addition to a Gram stain provides the best combination of tests to rapidly predict intrauterine infection.
Editors' Summary
Background.
A preterm delivery, or premature birth, is normally defined as one that occurs before 37 weeks after the last menstrual cycle (an average pregnancy lasts around 40 weeks). Premature birth is fairly common, with around 12% of births in the US fitting this definition. However, it has serious consequences, being responsible for around 70% of infant deaths and other adverse outcomes for the baby. It is not clear in all cases what directly causes premature birth or how to identify cases in which mother and child are at greater risk of serious outcomes. Evidence from case-control and other studies strongly suggests that infections of the uterus, placenta, or genital tract are associated with, and are likely to directly cause, premature deliveries. Such infections, even if they are “subclinical” (that is, they do not directly cause signs or symptoms that the doctor or patient would notice) cause inflammation in the affected tissues. Hence, it's possible that particular proteins or other molecules could provide a “signature” that would allow the inflammation to be picked up at an early stage.
Why Was This Study Done?
If inflammation could be picked up early, this might help identify mothers at risk of having a preterm delivery, and even to pinpoint cases of very severe inflammation where the baby is more at risk of poor outcomes. The researchers involved in this study had already done previous work looking at protein profiles in the amniotic fluid (the liquid directly surrounding the developing fetus). They identified a set of four protein “markers” that were closely associated with inflammation in the amniotic fluid, and developed a score based on those proteins, which they termed the “Mass Restricted” (MR) score. The researchers showed that this score could accurately identify women at risk of preterm delivery. However, before using the protein marker score in clinical practice it is very important to really be sure it is a reliable diagnostic test for preterm birth and adverse outcomes resulting from preterm birth. Therefore the researchers wanted to find out whether MR scores were associated with the outcome of pregnancy; the presence of infection in the placenta, as detected through microscopic analysis of tissue; and sepsis (severe infection) in the newborn baby.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The study was based on findings from pregnant women presenting at the Yale-New Haven Hospital with symptoms of premature labor, who were all followed up to the point of delivery of the baby. In all cases the decisions about how to manage the pregnancy (for example, whether to deliver the baby or attempt to delay birth) were made by the woman and her physician, not by any procedures laid out in the research study. A total of 169 women were recruited into the study and had a sample of amniotic fluid taken as part of their routine clinical management. The researchers then analyzed this fluid to calculate the protein MR score, to look for evidence of bacterial infection, and also carried out standard laboratory tests. After childbirth the placenta was examined under the microscope to look for any evidence of inflammation. Finally, all babies were checked for any evidence of sepsis. The researchers found that, in line with findings from their previous studies, women with a higher MR score gave birth sooner. There also seemed to be a close agreement between the MR score and evidence of inflammation in the placenta, once it was analyzed under the microscope after birth. Furthermore, mothers with a high MR score were more likely to give birth to babies with suspected or confirmed sepsis. The researchers then compared the usefulness of the MR score against other potential tests for inflammation. Of all the tests compared, the MR score seemed to be the most accurate in predicting inflammation.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study showed that the MR score was closely associated with a number of different indicators of poor outcome in preterm birth. These outcomes included sooner deliveries, sepsis in the baby, and inflammation in the placenta. In future, the MR score may provide a useful test for recognizing women at risk of preterm delivery and babies at risk of poor outcome. However, further evaluation of the test will still need to be done before it could become a standard procedure in the clinic.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040018.
Information from the US National Institutes of Health on premature babies
The March of Dimes is a US charity that funds research into prematurity
Information from Wikipedia about proteomics the area of research used to develop the protein score examined here (note: Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040018
PMCID: PMC1769412  PMID: 17227133
10.  Combination Antiretroviral Use and Preterm Birth 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;207(4):612-621.
Background. Use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) during pregnancy has been associated with higher risk of preterm birth.
Methods. The Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study network's Surveillance Monitoring for ART Toxicities study is a US-based cohort of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)–exposed uninfected children. We evaluated maternal ARV use during pregnancy and the risk of any type of preterm birth (ie, birth before 37 completed weeks of gestation), the risk of spontaneous preterm birth (ie, preterm birth that occurred after preterm labor or membrane rupture, without other complications), and the risk of small for gestational age (SGA; ie, a birth weight of <10th percentile for gestational age). Multivariable logistic regression models were used to evaluate the association of ARVs and timing of exposure, while adjusting for maternal characteristics.
Results. Among 1869 singleton births, 18.6% were preterm, 10.2% were spontaneous preterm, and 7.3% were SGA. A total of 89% used 3-drug combination ARV regimens during pregnancy. In adjusted models, the odds of preterm birth and spontaneous preterm birth were significantly greater among mothers who used protease inhibitors during the first trimester (adjusted odds ratios, 1.55 and 1.59, respectively) but not among mothers who used nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor or triple-nucleoside regimens during the first trimester. Combination ARV exposure starting later in pregnancy was not associated with increased risk. No associations were observed between SGA and exposure to combination ARV regimens.
Conclusions. Protease inhibitor use early in pregnancy may be associated with increased risk for prematurity.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jis728
PMCID: PMC3549601  PMID: 23204173
preterm birth; antiretrovirals; pregnancy; small for gestational age
11.  Impact of Scotland's Smoke-Free Legislation on Pregnancy Complications: Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001175.
An analysis of pregnancy data for the whole of Scotland demonstrates a reduction in small-for-gestational-age births and preterm delivery since the introduction of legislation banning smoking in enclosed public spaces.
Background
Both active smoking and environmental tobacco smoke exposure are associated with pregnancy complications. In March 2006, Scotland implemented legislation prohibiting smoking in all wholly or partially enclosed public spaces. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of this legislation on preterm delivery and small for gestational age.
Methods and Findings
We conducted logistic regression analyses using national administrative pregnancy data covering the whole of Scotland. Of the two breakpoints tested, 1 January 2006 produced a better fit than the date when the legislation came into force (26 March 2006), suggesting an anticipatory effect. Among the 716,941 eligible women who conceived between August 1995 and February 2009 and subsequently delivered a live-born, singleton infant between 24 and 44 wk gestation, the prevalence of current smoking fell from 25.4% before legislation to 18.8% after legislation (p<0.001). Three months prior to the legislation, there were significant decreases in small for gestational age (−4.52%, 95% CI −8.28, −0.60, p = 0.024), overall preterm delivery (−11.72%, 95% CI −15.87, −7.35, p<0.001), and spontaneous preterm labour (−11.35%, 95% CI −17.20, −5.09, p = 0.001). In sub-group analyses, significant reductions were observed among both current and never smokers.
Conclusions
Reductions were observed in the risk of preterm delivery and small for gestational age 3 mo prior to the introduction of legislation, although the former reversed partially following the legislation. There is growing evidence of the potential for tobacco control legislation to have a positive impact on health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The risks of smoking during pregnancy, both on mother and fetus, are well established: women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have a miscarriage. Smoking can cause placental problems, such as placental abruption, which can result in heavy bleeding during pregnancy, which is dangerous for both mother and baby. Other dangers of smoking during pregnancy include the baby being born too early (premature birth), the baby being below average weight (small for gestational age), birth defects, and infant death. Because of the serious damage to health caused by smoking, in 2005, under the auspices of the World Health Organization, countries adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental, and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke. Article 8 of the treaty obliges member states who have ratified the treaty—168 so far—to protect all people from exposure to tobacco smoke in indoor workplaces, public transport, and indoor public places. As a result, many countries around the world have banned smoking in public places.
Why Was This Study Done?
Scotland was the first country in the United Kingdom to ban smoking in public places, which was implemented as part of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill on 26 March 2006. Previous studies have shown that the introduction of the legislation led directly to a reduction in smoking and also a reduction in environmental tobacco smoke exposure in adults and children. Furthermore, the Scottish legislation has been accompanied by significant reductions in both cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Because of the known risks of smoking during pregnancy, the researchers wanted to investigate whether the change in policy on smoking in public places had positive benefits on the health of mothers and babies. They evaluated this by measuring the rates of preterm delivery and small for gestational age before and after the Scottish legislation went into effect.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected information on preterm delivery and small for gestational age in all single babies born live at 22–44 weeks gestation between 1 January 1996 and 31 December 2009 by using the Scottish Morbidity Record (SMR2), which collects relevant information on all women discharged from Scottish maternity hospitals, including maternal and infant characteristics and pregnancy complications. The researchers categorized preterm delivery into mild, moderate, and extreme depending on how much before 37 weeks the baby was born. They defined small for gestational age as the smallest 10% (below the 10th centile) for sex-specific birth weight at delivery, and very small for gestational age as the smallest 3% (below the 3rd centile), for all deliveries in Scotland over the study period. As some people may have stopped smoking in anticipation of the smoking ban, in their statistical model, the researchers included two possible breakpoints for the effect of the legislation—the actual date of implementation and 1 January 2006.
The researchers found that of the 716,968 pregnancies (the number eligible for inclusion in the study), 99.9% of women had their smoking status recorded, and among these 23.9% were current smokers, 57.6% never smokers, and 8.7% former smokers. However, following implementation of the legislation the researchers noted that there was a significant reduction in current smokers to 18.8%. In their statistical model, the researchers found that following 1 January 2006, there was a significant drop in overall preterm deliveries, which remained after adjustment for potential confounding factors. Likewise, there was a significant decrease in the number of infants born small, and very small, for gestational age after 1 January 2006. Furthermore, the researchers found that these significant reductions occurred in both mothers who smoked and those who had never smoked.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the introduction of national, comprehensive smoke-free legislation in Scotland was associated with significant reductions in preterm delivery and babies being born small for gestational age. These findings are plausible and add to the growing evidence of the wide-ranging health benefits of smoke-free legislation, and support the adoption of such legislation in other countries that have yet to implement smoking bans.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001175.
More information is available on the World Health Organization's Framework Convention for Tobacco Control
More information on the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill is available
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about the risks of smoking in pregnancy, as does the UK National Health Service's smokefree web page
NHS Health Scotland has a website that summarises all the studies to date evaluating the Scottish smoke-free legislation
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001175
PMCID: PMC3295815  PMID: 22412353
12.  Gestational Age at Delivery and Special Educational Need: Retrospective Cohort Study of 407,503 Schoolchildren 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000289.
A retrospective cohort study of 407,503 schoolchildren by Jill Pell and colleagues finds that gestational age at delivery has a dose-dependent relationship with the risk of special educational needs that extends across the full gestational range.
Background
Previous studies have demonstrated an association between preterm delivery and increased risk of special educational need (SEN). The aim of our study was to examine the risk of SEN across the full range of gestation.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based, retrospective study by linking school census data on the 407,503 eligible school-aged children resident in 19 Scottish Local Authority areas (total population 3.8 million) to their routine birth data. SEN was recorded in 17,784 (4.9%) children; 1,565 (8.4%) of those born preterm and 16,219 (4.7%) of those born at term. The risk of SEN increased across the whole range of gestation from 40 to 24 wk: 37–39 wk adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.12–1.20; 33–36 wk adjusted OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.43–1.63; 28–32 wk adjusted OR 2.66, 95% CI 2.38–2.97; 24–27 wk adjusted OR 6.92, 95% CI 5.58–8.58. There was no interaction between elective versus spontaneous delivery. Overall, gestation at delivery accounted for 10% of the adjusted population attributable fraction of SEN. Because of their high frequency, early term deliveries (37–39 wk) accounted for 5.5% of cases of SEN compared with preterm deliveries (<37 wk), which accounted for only 3.6% of cases.
Conclusions
Gestation at delivery had a strong, dose-dependent relationship with SEN that was apparent across the whole range of gestation. Because early term delivery is more common than preterm delivery, the former accounts for a higher percentage of SEN cases. Our findings have important implications for clinical practice in relation to the timing of elective delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but the number of babies who are born early is increasing. In the US, for example, more than half a million babies a year are now born before 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother). Sadly, babies born this early (premature babies) are more likely to die than babies delivered between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation (term babies) and many have short- and/or long-term health problems. They are also more likely to have a “special educational need” (SEN) as children, a learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia or autism), or a physical difficulty such as deafness or poor vision that requires special educational help, than term babies. The severity of all the problems associated with being born early depends on the degree of prematurity. Thus, the risk of SEN associated with prematurity declines steadily with advancing gestational age up to 36 weeks. That is, a baby born at 24 weeks of gestation is more likely to have an SEN later in life than one born at 36 weeks of gestation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early term births (between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation) are also becoming more common, because more mothers are electing to be delivered early for nonmedical reasons (so-called birth scheduling). Unfortunately, it is not known whether early term babies have an increased risk of SEN compared with babies born at 40 weeks, because few studies have looked at SEN in children born between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation. In this retrospective cohort study, the researchers investigate the risk of SEN across the whole spectrum of gestational age at delivery and use their results to calculate the fraction of SEN associated with delivery at different gestational ages—the “population attributable risk.” In a retrospective cohort study, researchers examine the medical records of groups of people who differ in a specific characteristic (in this case, having an SEN) for a particular outcome (in this case, gestational age at birth).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers linked 2005 School Census data (which includes a record of all children with an SEN) for more than 400,000 school-aged children in 19 Scottish Local Authority areas (covering three-quarters of the Scottish population) with routine birth data held in the Scottish Morbidity Record. SEN was recorded for nearly 18,000 children (4.9% of the children). 8.4% of the children who were born preterm and 4.7% of those born at term were recorded as having an SEN. The risk of SEN increased across the gestation range from 40 to 24 weeks. Thus, compared to children born at 40 weeks, children born at 37–39 weeks of gestation were 1.16 times as likely to have an SEN—an odds ratio of 1.16. Children born at 33–36, 28–32, and 24–27 weeks were 1.53, 2.66, and 6.92 times as likely to have an SEN, respectively, as children born at 40 weeks. Although the risk of SEN was much higher in preterm than in early term babies, because many more children were born between 37 and 39 weeks (about a third of babies) than before 37 weeks (one in 20 babies), early term births accounted for 5.5% of cases of SEN, whereas preterm deliveries accounted for only 3.6% of cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that gestational age at delivery strongly affects a child's subsequent risk of having an SEN in a dose-dependent manner across the whole range of gestational age. Furthermore, because early term delivery is much more common than preterm delivery, these findings show that early term delivery is responsible for more cases of SEN than preterm delivery. These findings, which are likely to be accurate because of the large size of the study and its design, have important implications for the timing of elective delivery. They suggest that deliveries should ideally wait until 40 weeks of gestation because even a baby born at 39 weeks—the normal timing for elective deliveries these days—has an increased risk of SEN compared with a baby born a week later.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000289.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth and an article on why the last weeks of pregnancy count (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has information on preterm labor and birth and on learning disabilities
The UK Government provides information for parents on special educational needs
Medline Plus has links to further information on both premature birth and learning disabilities (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000289
PMCID: PMC2882432  PMID: 20543995
13.  Maternal Biomarkers of Endothelial Dysfunction and Preterm Delivery 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85716.
Background
Endothelial dysfunction is key to the development of atherosclerosis. Preterm delivery foreshadows later maternal cardiovascular disease (CVD), but it is not known if endothelial dysfunction also occurs. We prospectively measured circulating biomarkers of endothelial dysfunction in pregnant women with preterm or term delivery.
Methods
We conducted a case-control study nested within a large prospective epidemiological study of young, generally healthy pregnant women. Women who delivered preterm (<37 completed weeks gestation, n = 240) and controls who delivered at term (n = 439) were included. Pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia were analyzed separately. Circulating endothelial dysfunction biomarkers included soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1), vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) and soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin).
Results
Elevated levels of sICAM-1 and sVCAM-1 were positively associated with preterm delivery independent of usual risk factors. At entry (∼16 wks), the adjusted odds ratio (AOR) was 1.73 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.09–2.74) for the highest quartile of sICAM-1 versus the lowest quartile and for sVCAM-1 the AOR was 2.17 (95% CI 1.36–3.46). When analysis was limited to cases with a spontaneous preterm delivery, the results were unchanged. Similar results were obtained for the 3rd trimester (∼30 wks). Elevated sE-selectin was increased only in preterm delivery complicated by preeclampsia; risk was increased at entry (AOR 2.32, 95% CI 1.22–4.40) and in the 3rd trimester (AOR 3.37, 95% CI 1.78–6.39).
Conclusions
Impaired endothelial function as indicated by increased levels of soluble molecules commonly secreted by endothelial cells is a pathogenic precursor to CVD that is also present in women with preterm delivery. Our findings underscore the need for follow-up studies to determine if improving endothelial function prevents later CVD risk in women.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0085716
PMCID: PMC3899071  PMID: 24465662
14.  Analysis of preterm deliveries below 35 weeks' gestation in a tertiary referral hospital in the UK. A case-control survey 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:119.
Background
Preterm birth remains a major public health problem and its incidence worldwide is increasing. Epidemiological risk factors have been investigated in the past, but there is a need for a better understanding of the causes of preterm birth in well defined obstetric populations in tertiary referral centres; it is important to repeat surveillance and identify possible changes in clinical and socioeconomic factors associated with preterm delivery. The aim of this study was to identify current risk factors associated with preterm delivery and highlight areas for further research.
Findings
We studied women with singleton deliveries at St Michael's Hospital, Bristol during 2002 and 2003. 274 deliveries between 23-35 weeks' gestation (preterm group), were compared to 559 randomly selected control deliveries at term (37-42 weeks) using standard statistical procedures. Both groups were >80% Caucasian. Previous preterm deliveries, high maternal age (> 39 years), socioeconomic problems, smoking during pregnancy, hypertension, psychiatric disorders and uterine abnormalities were significantly associated with preterm deliveries. Both lean and obese mothers were more common in the preterm group. Women with depression/psychiatric disease were significantly more likely to have social problems, to have smoked during pregnancy and to have had previous preterm deliveries; when adjustments for these three factors were made the relationship between psychiatric disease and pregnancy outcome was no longer significant. 53% of preterm deliveries were spontaneous, and were strongly associated with episodes of threatened preterm labour. Medically indicated preterm deliveries were associated with hypertension and fetal growth restriction. Preterm premature rupture of the membranes, vaginal bleeding, anaemia and oligohydramnios were significantly increased in both spontaneous and indicated preterm deliveries compared to term controls.
Conclusions
More than 50% of preterm births are potentially preventable, but remain associated with risk factors such as increased uterine contractility, preterm premature rupture of the membranes and uterine bleeding whose aetiology is unknown. Despite remarkable advances in perinatal care, preterm birth continues to cause neonatal deaths and long-term morbidity. Significant breakthroughs in the management of preterm birth are likely to come from research into the mechanisms of human parturition and the pathophysiology of preterm labour using multidisciplinary clinical and laboratory approaches.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-119
PMCID: PMC2877057  PMID: 20426852
15.  Safety of Daily Co-Trimoxazole in Pregnancy in an Area of Changing Malaria Epidemiology: A Phase 3b Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96017.
Introduction
Antibiotic therapy during pregnancy may be beneficial and impacts positively on the reduction of adverse pregnancy outcomes. No studies have been done so far on the effects of daily Co-trimoxazole (CTX) prophylaxis on birth outcomes. A phase 3b randomized trial was conducted to establish that daily CTX in pregnancy is not inferior to SP intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) in reducing placental malaria; preventing peripheral parasitaemia; preventing perinatal mortality and also improving birth weight. To establish its safety on the offspring by measuring the gestational age and birth weight at delivery, and compare the safety and efficacy profile of CTX to that of SP.
Methods
Pregnant women (HIV infected and uninfected) attending antenatal clinic were randomized to receive either daily CTX or sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine as per routine IPT. Safety was assessed using standard and pregnancy specific measurements. Women were followed up monthly until delivery and then with their offspring up to six weeks after delivery.
Results
Data from 346 pregnant women (CTX = 190; SP = 156) and 311 newborns (CTX = 166 and SP = 145) showed that preterm deliveries (CTX 3.6%; SP 3.0%); still births (CTX 3.0%; SP 2.1%), neonatal deaths (CTX 0%; SP 1.4%), and spontaneous abortions (CTX 0.6%; SP 0%) were similar between study arms. The low birth weight rates were 9% for CTX and 13% for SP. There were no birth defects reported. Both drug exposure groups had full term deliveries with similar birth weights (mean of 3.1 Kg). The incidence and severity of AEs in the two groups were comparable.
Conclusion
Exposure to daily CTX in pregnancy may not be associated with particular safety risks in terms of birth outcomes such as preterm deliveries, still births, neonatal deaths and spontaneous abortions compared to SP. However, more data are required on CTX use in pregnant women both among HIV infected and un-infected individuals.
Trial Registration
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00711906.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096017
PMCID: PMC4022666  PMID: 24830749
16.  Brazilian Multicentre Study on Preterm Birth (EMIP): Prevalence and Factors Associated with Spontaneous Preterm Birth 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109069.
Background
Preterm birth rate is increasing and is currently a worldwide concern. The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence of preterm birth in a sample of health facilities in Brazil and to identify the main risk factors associated with spontaneous preterm births.
Methods and Findings
This was a multicentre cross sectional study on preterm births in 20 referral obstetric hospitals with a case-control component to identify factors associated with spontaneous preterm birth. Surveillance was implemented at all centres to identify preterm births. For eligible consenting women, data were collected through a post-delivery questionnaire completed with information from all mother-newborn medical records until death or discharge or at a maximum of 60 days post-delivery, whichever came first. The risk of spontaneous preterm birth was estimated with OR and 95%CI for several predictors. A non-conditional logistic regression analysis was then performed to identify independently associated factors. The overall prevalence of preterm birth was 12.3%. Among them, 64.6% were spontaneous and 35.4% therapeutic. In the case-control component, 2,682 spontaneous preterm births were compared to a sample of 1,146 term births. Multivariate analyses identified the following as risk factors for spontaneous preterm birth among women with at least one previous birth: a previous preterm birth (ORadj = 3.19, 2.30–4.43), multiple pregnancy (ORadj = 29.06, 8.43–100.2), cervical insufficiency (ORadj = 2.93, 1.07–8.05), foetal malformation (ORadj = 2.63, 1.43–4.85), polyhydramnios (ORadj = 2.30, 1.17–4.54), vaginal bleeding (ORadj = 2.16, 1.50–3.11), and previous abortion (ORadj = 1.39, 1.08–1.78). High BMI (ORadj = 0.94, 0.91–0.97) and weight gain during gestation (ORadj = 0.92, 0.89–0.95) were found to be protective factors.
Conclusions
The preterm birth rate in these health facilities in Brazil is high and spontaneous preterm births account for two thirds of them. A better understanding of the factors associated with spontaneous preterm birth is of utmost importance for planning effective measures to reduce the burden of its increasing rates.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109069
PMCID: PMC4192080  PMID: 25299699
17.  Midtrimester amniotic fluid concentrations of interleukin-6 and interferon-gamma-inducible protein-10: evidence for heterogeneity of intra-amniotic inflammation and associations with spontaneous early (< 32 weeks) and late (> 32 weeks) preterm delivery 
Journal of perinatal medicine  2012;40(4):329-343.
Introduction
Intra-amniotic inflammation is traditionally defined as an elevation of amniotic fluid interleukin (IL)-6. Previous case control studies have suggested an association between an elevated midtrimester amniotic fluid IL-6 and preterm delivery, although such an association has been recently challenged. Intra-amniotic inflammation can also be defined by an elevation of the T-cell chemokine, Interferongamma-inducible protein (IP)-10. An elevation in amniotic fluid IP-10 has been associated with chronic chorioamnionitis, a lesion frequently found in late spontaneous preterm birth and fetal death. In contrast, an elevation in amniotic fluid IL-6 is typically associated with acute chorioamnionitis and funisitis. This study was conducted to examine the relationship between an elevation in amniotic fluid IL-6 in the midtrimester and preterm delivery at or before 32 weeks of gestation, and the amniotic fluid concentration of IP-10 and preterm delivery after 32 weeks of gestation.
Materials and methods
This cohort study included 847 consecutive women undergoing genetic midtrimester amniocentesis; in 796 cases, amniotic fluid and pregnancy outcome was available for study after exclusion of abnormal karyotype and/or fetal congenital anomalies. Spontaneous preterm delivery was defined as early (≤ 32 weeks) or late (after 32 completed weeks of pregnancy). The amniotic fluid and maternal blood concentrations of IL-6 and IP-10 were measured by specific immunoassays.
Results
1) The prevalence of preterm delivery was 8.3% (66/796), while those of early and late spontaneous preterm delivery were 1.5% (n = 12), and 4.5% (n = 36), respectively; 2) patients who had a spontaneous preterm delivery after 32 weeks of gestation had a higher median amniotic fluid IP-10 concentration than those who delivered at term [median 713 pg/mL, inter-quartile range (IQR) 509 – 1427 pg/mL vs. median 589 pg/mL, IQR 402 – 953 pg/mL; P = 0.006] and an elevation of amniotic fluid IP-10 concentration above 502 pg/mL (derived from an ROC curve) was associated with late spontaneous preterm delivery [odds ratio 3.9 (95% CI 1.6 – 9.9)]; 3) patients who had a spontaneous preterm delivery ≤ 32 weeks of gestation had a higher median amniotic fluid IL-6 concentration than those who delivered at term [median 2052 pg/mL, IQR 435 – 3015 pg/mL vs. median 414 pg/mL, IQR 209 – 930 pg/mL; P = 0.006], and an elevated amniotic fluid IL-6 concentration above 1740 pg/mL (derived from an ROC curve) was associated with early spontaneous preterm delivery [odds ratio 9.5 (95% CI 2.9 – 31.1)]; 4) subclinical intra-amniotic inflammation, defined as an elevation of IL-6 (≥ 2.9 ng/mL) or IP-10 (≥ 2.2 ng/mL) concentration above the 95th percentile of patients who had uncomplicated term delivery (n = 652 for IL-6 and n = 633 for IP-10), was observed in 6.3% (50/796) and 5.8% (45/770) of cases, respectively. Although each type of inflammation is a risk factor for spontaneous preterm delivery, many patients had a term delivery without complication; 5) the amniotic fluid in the midtrimester did not contain microorganisms detectable with cultivation techniques.
Conclusions
Intra-amniotic inflammation is heterogeneous. Some patients have elevated amniotic fluid concentrations of IL-6, and are at risk for spontaneous preterm delivery before 32 weeks of gestation, while others have an elevated IP-10 (a chemotactic T-cell chemokine) and such patients are at risk for spontaneous preterm delivery after 32 weeks of gestation. A fraction of patients have subclinical intra-amniotic inflammation and deliver at term. The clinical significance of this condition remains to be determined.
doi:10.1515/jpm-2012-0034
PMCID: PMC3498502  PMID: 22752762
Chemokines; chorioamnionitis; chronic chorioamnionitis; cytokines; early preterm labor; late preterm labor; maternal anti-fetal rejection; midtrimester amniocentesis; pregnancy
18.  Association of Elevated, Free Fatty Acids During Late Pregnancy With Preterm Delivery 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2008;112(2 Pt 1):297-303.
Objective
To examine the association between moderately elevated maternal plasma free fatty acids (FFAs) during late pregnancy and preterm delivery.
Methods
In a prospective observational cohort with 523 healthy pregnant women, fasting plasma FFAs were measured during the 3rd trimester; socioeconomic, demographic, and anthropometric parameters were collected at entry to prenatal care; pregnancy outcomes were abstracted from medical record at delivery.
Results
After control for confounders including pre-pregnant body mass index (multiple logistic regression analysis), women who had moderately elevated plasma FFAs (in the highest tertile), showed a greater than 3-fold increased risk of preterm delivery (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 3.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.73, 7.03, p<0.001). The associations persisted in women who had spontaneous preterm delivery (AOR 2.35, 95% CI 1.05, 5.28, p<0.05) and after excluding women with gestational diabetes mellitus and preeclampsia (AOR 3.30, 95% CI 1.38, 7.87, p<0.01). Additional stratified analyses showed that the association of high maternal FFAs and increased risk of preterm delivery was independent of pre-pregnant obesity.
Conclusion
Elevated fasting plasma FFA levels at 30 weeks’ gestation were associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery. This effect was independent of pre-pregnant obesity and several other known risk factors for preterm delivery including cigarette smoking, ethnicity and prior preterm delivery. These data may have important clinical significance because they provide a possible link between preterm delivery and high lipid levels, a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181802150
PMCID: PMC2631170  PMID: 18669726
19.  Sleep duration, vital exhaustion, and odds of spontaneous preterm birth: a case–control study 
Background
Preterm birth is a leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide, resulting in a pressing need to identify risk factors leading to effective interventions. Limited evidence suggests potential relationships between maternal sleep or vital exhaustion and preterm birth, yet the literature is generally inconclusive.
Methods
We examined the relationship between maternal sleep duration and vital exhaustion in the first six months of pregnancy and spontaneous (non-medically indicated) preterm birth among 479 Peruvian women who delivered a preterm singleton infant (<37 weeks gestation) and 480 term controls who delivered a singleton infant at term (≥37 weeks gestation). Maternal nightly sleep and reports of vital exhaustion were ascertained through in-person interviews. Spontaneous preterm birth cases were further categorized as those following either spontaneous preterm labor or preterm premature rupture of membranes. In addition, cases were categorized as very (<32 weeks), moderate (32–33 weeks), and late (34- <37 weeks) preterm birth for additional analyses. Logistic regression was used to estimate adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results
After adjusting for confounders, we found that short sleep duration (≤6 hours) was significantly associated with preterm birth (aOR = 1.56; 95% CI 1.11-2.19) compared to 7–8 hours of sleep. Vital exhaustion was also associated with increased odds of preterm birth (aOR = 2.41; 95% CI 1.79-3.23) compared to no exhaustion (Ptrend <0.001). These associations remained significant for spontaneous preterm labor and preterm premature rupture of membranes. We also found evidence of joint effects of sleep duration and vital exhaustion on the odds of spontaneous preterm birth.
Conclusions
The results of this case–control study suggest maternal sleep duration, particularly short sleep duration, and vital exhaustion may be risk factors for spontaneous preterm birth. These findings call for increased clinical attention to maternal sleep and the study of potential intervention strategies to improve sleep in early pregnancy with the aim of decreasing risk of preterm birth.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-337
PMCID: PMC4190429  PMID: 25261975
Sleep duration; Exhaustion; Preterm birth; Pregnancy
20.  Evidence to support that spontaneous preterm labor is adaptive in nature: neonatal RDS is more common in “indicated” than in “spontaneous” preterm birth 
Journal of perinatal medicine  2009;37(1):53-58.
Objectives
The onset of preterm labor has been proposed to have survival value and to be adaptive in nature. This hypothesis would predict that induced preterm birth may be associated with higher rates of complications than spontaneous preterm birth. The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a difference in the frequency of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), the most common neonatal complication, according to the etiology of preterm birth (e.g. preterm labor [PTL], preterm PROM, or pregnancies which ended because of maternal-fetal indications).
Study design
The relationship between the occurrence of RDS and the obstetrical circumstances leading to preterm birth was examined in 257 consecutive singleton preterm births (gestational age: 24-32 weeks). Cases with major congenital anomalies were excluded. The study population was divided into two groups according to the cause of preterm birth: 1) preterm birth due to PTL with intact membranes or preterm PROM (spontaneous preterm birth group); and 2) preterm birth due to maternal or fetal indications (indicated preterm birth group).
Results
1) RDS was diagnosed in 47% of cases; 2) RDS was more common in patients with indicated preterm birth than in those with spontaneous preterm birth group (58.1% vs. 38.4%, p=.002); 3) Patients with indicated preterm birth had a significantly higher mean gestational age at birth, but lower mean birth weight, lower rate of histological chorioamnionitis and higher rates of cesarean delivery, 5 min Apgar score of <7, and umbilical arterial blood pH of <7.15 than those with spontaneous preterm birth (p<0.05 for each); 4) Antenatal corticosteroids were used in 73.4% of cases with indicated preterm birth and in 76.9% of those with spontaneous preterm birth; 5) Multivariate analysis demonstrated that indicated preterm birth was associated with an increased risk of RDS after adjustment for confounding variables (OR=2.29, 95% CI 1.22-4.29).
Conclusions
1) The rate of RDS is greater following “indicated” rather than spontaneous preterm birth; 2) This observation supports the view that spontaneous preterm labor is adaptive in nature.
doi:10.1515/JPM.2009.036
PMCID: PMC2887663  PMID: 19099368
Indicated preterm birth; neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS); spontaneous preterm birth
21.  Low consumption of seafood in early pregnancy as a risk factor for preterm delivery: prospective cohort study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;324(7335):447.
Objective
To determine the relation between intake of seafood in pregnancy and risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight.
Design
Prospective cohort study.
Setting
Aarhus, Denmark.
Participants
8729 pregnant women.
Main outcome measures
Preterm delivery and low birth weight.
Results
The occurrence of preterm delivery differed significantly across four groups of seafood intake, falling progressively from 7.1% in the group never consuming fish to 1.9% in the group consuming fish as a hot meal and an open sandwich with fish at least once a week. Adjusted odds for preterm delivery were increased by a factor of 3.6 (95% confidence interval 1.2 to 11.2) in the zero consumption group compared with the highest consumption group. Analyses based on quantified intakes indicated that the working range of the dose-response relation is mainly from zero intake up to a daily intake of 15 g fish or 0.15 g n-3 fatty acids. Estimates of risk for low birth weight were similar to those for preterm delivery.
Conclusions
Low consumption of fish was a strong risk factor for preterm delivery and low birth weight. In women with zero or low intake of fish, small amounts of n-3 fatty acids—provided as fish or fish oil—may confer protection against preterm delivery and low birth weight.
What is already known on this topicLong chain n-3 fatty acids in amounts above 2 g a day may delay spontaneous delivery and prevent recurrence of preterm deliveryLarge studies have not been carried out to determine to what extent low consumption of n-3 fatty acids is a risk factor for preterm deliveryThe dose-response relation has not been describedWhat this study addsLow consumption of fish seems to be a strong risk factor for preterm delivery and low birth weight in Danish womenThis relation is strongest below an estimated daily intake of 0.15 g long chain n-3 fatty acids or 15 g fish
PMCID: PMC65663  PMID: 11859044
22.  Effects of socioeconomic position and clinical risk factors on spontaneous and iatrogenic preterm birth 
Background
The literature shows a variable and inconsistent relationship between socioeconomic position and preterm birth. We examined risk factors for spontaneous and iatrogenic preterm birth, with a focus on socioeconomic position and clinical risk factors, in order to explain the observed inconsistency.
Methods
We carried out a retrospective population-based cohort study of all singleton deliveries in Nova Scotia from 1988 to 2003. Data were obtained from the Nova Scotia Atlee Perinatal Database and the federal income tax T1 Family Files. Separate logistic models were used to quantify the association between socioeconomic position, clinical risk factors and spontaneous preterm birth and iatrogenic preterm birth.
Results
The study population included 132,714 singleton deliveries and the rate of preterm birth was 5.5%. Preterm birth rates were significantly higher among the women in the lowest (versus the highest) family income group for spontaneous (rate ratio 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03, 1.25) but not iatrogenic preterm birth (rate ratio 0.95, 95% CI 0.75, 1.19). Adjustment for maternal characteristics attenuated the family income-spontaneous preterm birth relationship but strengthened the relationship with iatrogenic preterm birth. Clinical risk factors such as hypertension were differentially associated with spontaneous (rate ratio 3.92, 95% CI 3.47, 4.44) and iatrogenic preterm (rate ratio 14.1, 95% CI 11.4, 17.4) but factors such as diabetes mellitus were not (rate ratio 4.38, 95% CI 3.21, 5.99 for spontaneous and 4.02, 95% CI 2.07, 7.80 for iatrogenic preterm birth).
Conclusions
Socioeconomic position and clinical risk factors have different effects on spontaneous and iatrogenic preterm. Recent temporal increases in iatrogenic preterm birth appear to be responsible for the inconsistent relationship between socioeconomic position and preterm birth.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-117
PMCID: PMC3987165  PMID: 24670050
Spontaneous preterm birth; Iatrogenic preterm birth; Risk factors; Pregnancy complications; Socioeconomic status
23.  Elastography in predicting preterm delivery in asymptomatic, low-risk women: a prospective observational study 
Background
Despite the efforts to decrease the rate of preterm birth, preterm delivery is still the main cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality. Identifying patients threatened with preterm delivery remains one of the main obstetric challenges. The aim of this study was to estimate the potential value of elastographic evaluation of internal cervical os stiffness at 18-22 weeks of pregnancy in low risk, asymptomatic women in the prediction of spontaneous preterm delivery.
Methods
This prospective observational study included 333 low-risk, asymptomatic women presenting for the routine second trimester ultrasound scan according to the Polish Gynecological Society recommendation between 18-22 weeks of pregnancy. Ultrasound examinations of the cervix were performed transvaginally. The following data were recorded: elastographic color assessment of the internal os and ultrasound cervical length at 18-22 and 30 weeks of pregnancy; maternal age; obstetrical history; presence of cervical funneling at 30 weeks of pregnancy; gestational age at birth. Elastographic assessment of the internal os was performed using a color map: red (soft), yellow (medium soft), blue (medium hard) and purple (hard). If two colors were visible in the region of the internal os, the softer option was noted. Statistical analysis was performed using Statistica software (version 10, Statsoft Poland) using the following tests: chi square test to compare frequency of preterm deliveries in various categories of internal os assessment and Spearman correlation test to determine the correlation between elastographic assessment and cervical shortening. To determine the cut off category of internal os elastography assessment in selecting high preterm delivery risk patients we have calculated the sensivity, specifity, negative predictive value and positive predictive value.
Results
The number of preterm deliveries (<37 weeks of pregnancy) was significantly higher in the red and yellow groups, than in the blue and purple groups. The sensivity, specifity, NPV and PPV for both red and yellow internal os assessment in predicting preterm delivery were 85.7%, 97.6%, 98.3% and 81.1% respectively.
Conclusions
Elastographic assessment of the internal cervical os at 18-22 weeks of pregnancy may identify patients with high risk of preterm delivery in low-risk, asymptomatic women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-238
PMCID: PMC4223586  PMID: 25041946
Elastography; Preterm delivery; Ultrasonography; Cervical assessment
24.  Association Between Maternal Nutritional Status of Pre Pregnancy, Gestational Weight Gain and Preterm Birth 
Materia Socio-Medica  2013;25(1):6-8.
Introduction:
Maternal nutritional status of pre pregnancy and gestational weight gain affects the preterm birth. The association between maternal nutritional status of pre pregnancy and preterm birth appears to be complex and varied by studies from different countries, thus this association between the gestational weight gain and preterm birth is more consolidated.
Objective:
The study aims to determine any association between the pre pregnancy maternal nutritional status, gestational weight gain and the preterm birth rate in the Albanian context.
Method and materials:
In case control study, we analyzed women who have delivered in obstetric institutions in Tirana during the year 2012. Body mass index and gestational weight gain of 150 women who had a preterm delivery were compared with those of 150 matched control women who had a normal delivery regarding the gestation age. The self-reported pre pregnancy weight, height, gestational weight gain, age, education and parity are collected through a structured questioner. The body mass index and gestational weight gain are categorized based on the Institute of Medicine recommendation. The multiple logistic regression is used to measure the association between the nutritional status of pre pregnancy and gestational weight gain and the preterm birth rate.
Results:
The women which have a underweight status or obese of pre pregnancy are more likely to have a preterm birth compared to the women of a normal pre-pregnancy nutritional status (respectively OR =2.7 and 4.3 p<0.05). Women who do not reach the recommended gestational weight gain are more likely to have a preterm birth compared to the women which reach this weight (OR=1.8 p< 0.05).
Discussion:
Maternal nutritional status and gestational weight gain affects the risk for preterm birth. Pre-pregnancy and gestation nutritional assessments should be part of routine prenatal visits.
doi:10.5455/msm.2013.25.6-8
PMCID: PMC3650563  PMID: 23678333
pre pregnancy; nutritional status; weight gain; preterm birth.
25.  Obstetric complications among US women with asthma 
Objective
To characterize complications of pregnancy, labor and delivery associated with maternal asthma in a contemporary US cohort.
Study Design
A retrospective cohort based on electronic medical record data from 223,512 singleton deliveries from 12 clinical centers across the United States between 2002–2008.
Results
Women with asthma had higher odds of preeclampsia (adjusted odds ratio (aOR)=1.14; 95% confidence interval (95%CI)=1.06–1.22), superimposed preeclampsia (aOR=1.34; 95%CI=1.15–1.56), gestational diabetes (aOR=1.11; 95%CI=1.03–1.19), placental abruption (aOR=1.22; 95%CI=1.09–1.36), and placenta previa (aOR=1.30; 95%CI=1.08–1.56). Asthmatic women had a higher odds of preterm birth overall (aOR=1.17; 95%CI=1.12–1.23) and of medically-indicated preterm delivery (aOR=1.14; 95%CI=1.01–1.29). Asthmatics were less likely to have spontaneous labor (aOR=0.87; 95%CI=0.84–0.90) and vaginal delivery (aOR=0.84; 95%CI=0.80–0.87). Risks were higher for breech presentation (aOR=1.13; 95%CI=1.05–1.22), hemorrhage (aOR=1.09; 95%CI=1.03–1.16), pulmonary embolism (aOR=1.71; 95%CI=1.05–2.79), and maternal ICU admission (aOR=1.34; 95%CI=1.04–1.72).
Conclusion
Maternal asthma increased risk for nearly all outcomes studied in a general obstetric population.
doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2012.11.007
PMCID: PMC3557554  PMID: 23159695
asthma; cesarean delivery; pregnancy complication; preterm birth

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