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1.  Pregnancy and Infant Outcomes among HIV-Infected Women Taking Long-Term ART with and without Tenofovir in the DART Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(5):e1001217.
Diana Gibb and colleagues investigate the effect of in utero tenofovir exposure by analyzing the pregnancy and infant outcomes of HIV-infected women enrolled in the DART trial.
Background
Few data have described long-term outcomes for infants born to HIV-infected African women taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in pregnancy. This is particularly true for World Health Organization (WHO)–recommended tenofovir-containing first-line regimens, which are increasingly used and known to cause renal and bone toxicities; concerns have been raised about potential toxicity in babies due to in utero tenofovir exposure.
Methods and Findings
Pregnancy outcome and maternal/infant ART were collected in Ugandan/Zimbabwean HIV-infected women initiating ART during The Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial, which compared routine laboratory monitoring (CD4; toxicity) versus clinically driven monitoring. Women were followed 15 January 2003 to 28 September 2009. Infant feeding, clinical status, and biochemistry/haematology results were collected in a separate infant study. Effect of in utero ART exposure on infant growth was analysed using random effects models.
382 pregnancies occurred in 302/1,867 (16%) women (4.4/100 woman-years [95% CI 4.0–4.9]). 226/390 (58%) outcomes were live-births, 27 (7%) stillbirths (≥22 wk), and 137 (35%) terminations/miscarriages (<22 wk). Of 226 live-births, seven (3%) infants died <2 wk from perinatal causes and there were seven (3%) congenital abnormalities, with no effect of in utero tenofovir exposure (p>0.4). Of 219 surviving infants, 182 (83%) enrolled in the follow-up study; median (interquartile range [IQR]) age at last visit was 25 (12–38) months. From mothers' ART, 62/9/111 infants had no/20%–89%/≥90% in utero tenofovir exposure; most were also zidovudine/lamivudine exposed. All 172 infants tested were HIV-negative (ten untested). Only 73/182(40%) infants were breast-fed for median 94 (IQR 75–212) days. Overall, 14 infants died at median (IQR) age 9 (3–23) months, giving 5% 12-month mortality; six of 14 were HIV-uninfected; eight untested infants died of respiratory infection (three), sepsis (two), burns (one), measles (one), unknown (one). During follow-up, no bone fractures were reported to have occurred; 12/368 creatinines and seven out of 305 phosphates were grade one (16) or two (three) in 14 children with no effect of in utero tenofovir (p>0.1). There was no evidence that in utero tenofovir affected growth after 2 years (p = 0.38). Attained height- and weight for age were similar to general (HIV-uninfected) Ugandan populations. Study limitations included relatively small size and lack of randomisation to maternal ART regimens.
Conclusions
Overall 1-year 5% infant mortality was similar to the 2%–4% post-neonatal mortality observed in this region. No increase in congenital, renal, or growth abnormalities was observed with in utero tenofovir exposure. Although some infants died untested, absence of recorded HIV infection with combination ART in pregnancy is encouraging. Detailed safety of tenofovir for pre-exposure prophylaxis will need confirmation from longer term follow-up of larger numbers of exposed children.
Trial registration
www.controlled-trials.com ISRCTN13968779
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, about 34 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic, more men than women were infected with HIV but now about half of all people living with HIV/AIDS are women, most of who became infected through unprotected sex with an infected partner. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 12 million women are HIV-positive. Worldwide, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among women of child-bearing age. Moreover, most of the 400,000 children who become infected with HIV every year acquire the virus from their mother during pregnancy or birth, or through breastfeeding, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART)—treatment with cocktails of powerful antiretroviral drugs—reduces HIV-related illness and death among women, and ART given to HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy and delivery and to their newborn babies greatly reduces MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because of ongoing international efforts to increase ART coverage, more HIV-positive women in Africa have access to ART now than ever before. However, little is known about pregnancy outcomes among HIV-infected African women taking ART throughout pregnancy for their own health or about the long-term outcomes of their offspring. In particular, few studies have examined the effect of taking tenofovir (an antiretroviral drug that is now recommended as part of first-line ART) throughout pregnancy. Tenofovir readily crosses from mother to child during pregnancy and, in animal experiments, high doses of tenofovir given during pregnancy caused bone demineralization (which weakens bones), kidney problems, and impaired growth among offspring. In this study, the researchers analyze data collected on pregnancy and infant outcomes among Ugandan and Zimbabwean HIV-positive women who took ART throughout pregnancy in the Development of AntiRetroviral Therapy in Africa (DART) trial. This trial was designed to test whether ART could be safely and effectively delivered in Africa without access to the expensive laboratory tests that are routinely used to monitor ART toxicity and efficacy in developed countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The pregnancy outcomes of 302 women who became pregnant during the DART trial and information on birth defects among their babies were collected as part of the DART protocol; information on the survival, growth, and development of the infants born to these women was collected in a separate infant study. Most of the women who became pregnant were taking tenofovir-containing ART before and throughout their pregnancies. 58% of the pregnancies resulted in a live birth, 7% resulted in a stillbirth (birth of a dead baby at any time from 22 weeks gestation to the end of pregnancy), and 35% resulted in a termination or miscarriage (before 22 weeks gestation). Of the 226 live births, seven infants died within 2 weeks and seven had birth defects. Similar proportions of the infants exposed and not exposed to tenofovir during pregnancy died soon after birth or had birth defects. Of the 182 surviving infants who were enrolled in the infant study, 14 subsequently died at an average age of 9 months, giving a 1-year mortality of 5%. None of the surviving children who were tested (172 infants) were HIV infected. No bone fractures or major kidney problems occurred during follow-up and prebirth exposure to tenofovir in utero had no effect on growth or weight gain at 2 years (in contrast to a previous US study).
What Do These Findings Mean?
By showing that prebirth tenofovir exposure does not affect pregnancy outcomes or increase birth defects, growth abnormalities, or kidney problems, these findings support the use of tenofovir-containing ART during pregnancy among HIV-positive African women, and suggest that it could also be used to prevent women of child-bearing age acquiring HIV-infection heterosexually. Notably, the observed 5% 1-year infant mortality is similar to the 2%–4% infant mortality normally seen in the region. The absence of HIV infection among the infants born to the DART participants is also encouraging. However, this is a small study (only 111 infants were exposed to tenofovir throughout pregnancy) and women were not randomly assigned to receive tenofovir-containing ART. Consequently, more studies are needed to confirm that tenofovir exposure during pregnancy does not affect pregnancy outcomes or have any long-term effects on infants. Such studies are essential because the use of tenofovir as a treatment for women who are HIV-positive is likely to increase and tenofovir may also be used in the future to prevent HIV acquisition in HIV-uninfected women.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001217.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV/AIDS treatment and care, women, HIV and AIDS, children, HIV and AIDS, and on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy (some information in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available
More information about the DART trial is available
Additional patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through the nonprofit website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001217
PMCID: PMC3352861  PMID: 22615543
2.  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
3.  Incident HIV during Pregnancy and Postpartum and Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(2):e1001608.
Alison Drake and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy and the postpartum period and to compare mother-to-child HIV transmission risk among women with incident versus chronic infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Women may have persistent risk of HIV acquisition during pregnancy and postpartum. Estimating risk of HIV during these periods is important to inform optimal prevention approaches. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy/postpartum and to compare mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) risk among women with incident versus chronic infection.
Methods and Findings
We searched PubMed, Embase, and AIDS-related conference abstracts between January 1, 1980, and October 31, 2013, for articles and abstracts describing HIV acquisition during pregnancy/postpartum. The inclusion criterion was studies with data on recent HIV during pregnancy/postpartum. Random effects models were constructed to pool HIV incidence rates, cumulative HIV incidence, hazard ratios (HRs), or odds ratios (ORs) summarizing the association between pregnancy/postpartum status and HIV incidence, and MTCT risk and rates. Overall, 1,176 studies met the search criteria, of which 78 met the inclusion criterion, and 47 contributed data. Using data from 19 cohorts representing 22,803 total person-years, the pooled HIV incidence rate during pregnancy/postpartum was 3.8/100 person-years (95% CI 3.0–4.6): 4.7/100 person-years during pregnancy and 2.9/100 person-years postpartum (p = 0.18). Pooled cumulative HIV incidence was significantly higher in African than non-African countries (3.6% versus 0.3%, respectively; p<0.001). Risk of HIV was not significantly higher among pregnant (HR 1.3, 95% CI 0.5–2.1) or postpartum women (HR 1.1, 95% CI 0.6–1.6) than among non-pregnant/non-postpartum women in five studies with available data. In African cohorts, MTCT risk was significantly higher among women with incident versus chronic HIV infection in the postpartum period (OR 2.9, 95% CI 2.2–3.9) or in pregnancy/postpartum periods combined (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2–4.4). However, the small number of studies limited power to detect associations and sources of heterogeneity.
Conclusions
Pregnancy and the postpartum period are times of persistent HIV risk, at rates similar to “high risk” cohorts. MTCT risk was elevated among women with incident infections. Detection and prevention of incident HIV in pregnancy/postpartum should be prioritized, and is critical to decrease MTCT.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, about 3.4 million children younger than 15 years old (mostly living in sub-Saharan Africa) are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS by gradually destroying immune system cells, thereby leaving infected individuals susceptible to other serious infections. In 2012 alone, 230,000 children (more than 700 every day) were newly infected with HIV. Most HIV infections among children are the result of mother-to-child HIV transmission (MTCT) during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. The rate of MTCT (and deaths among HIV-positive pregnant women from complications related to HIV infection) can be greatly reduced by testing women for HIV infection during pregnancy (antenatal HIV testing), treating HIV-positive women with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs, powerful drugs that control HIV replication and allow the immune system to recover) during pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding, and giving ARVs to their newborn babies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have developed a global plan that aims to move towards eliminating new HIV infections among children by 2015 and towards keeping their mothers alive. To ensure the plan's success, the incidence of HIV (the number of new infections) among women and the rate of MTCT must be reduced by increasing ARV uptake by mothers and their infants for the prevention of MTCT. However, the risk of HIV infection among pregnant women and among women who have recently given birth (postpartum women) is poorly understood because, although guidelines recommend repeat HIV testing during late pregnancy or at delivery in settings where HIV infection is common, pregnant women are often tested only once for HIV infection. The lack of retesting represents a missed opportunity to identify pregnant and postpartum women who have recently acquired HIV and to prevent MTCT by initiating ARV therapy. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a study that uses statistical methods to combine the results of several studies), the researchers estimate maternal HIV incidence during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and compare the risk of MTCT among women with incident (new) and chronic (long-standing) HIV infection.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 47 studies (35 undertaken in Africa) that examined recent HIV acquisition by women during pregnancy and the 12-month postpartum period. They used random effects statistical models to estimate the pooled HIV incidence rate and cumulative HIV incidence (the number of new infections per number of people at risk), and the association between pregnancy/postpartum status and HIV incidence and MTCT risk and rates. The pooled HIV incidence rate among pregnant/postpartum women estimated from 19 studies (all from sub-Saharan Africa) that reported HIV incidence rates was 3.8/100 person-years. The pooled cumulative HIV incidence was significantly higher in African countries than in non-African countries (3.6% and 0.3%, respectively; a “significant” difference is one that is unlikely to arise by chance). In the five studies that provided suitable data, the risk of HIV acquisition was similar in pregnant, postpartum, and non-pregnant/non-postpartum women. Finally, among African women, the risk of MTCT was 2.9-fold higher during the postpartum period among those who had recently acquired HIV than among those with chronic HIV infection, and 2.3-fold higher during the pregnancy/postpartum periods combined.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that women living in regions where HIV infection is common are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection during pregnancy and the postpartum period and that mothers who acquire HIV during pregnancy or postpartum are more likely to pass the infection on to their offspring than mothers with chronic HIV infections. However, the small number of studies included in this meta-analysis and the use of heterogeneous research methodologies in these studies may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings have important implications for the global plan to eliminate HIV infections in children. First, they suggest that women living in regions where HIV infection is common should be offered repeat HIV testing (using sensitive methods to enhance early detection of infection) during pregnancy and in the postpartum period to detect incident HIV infections, and should be promptly referred to HIV care and treatment. Second, they suggest that prevention of HIV transmission during pregnancy and postpartum should be prioritized, for example, by counseling women about the need to use condoms to prevent transmission during this period of their lives.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001608.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children and HIV/AIDS and on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day Report provides information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it; the 2013 UNAIDS Progress Report on the Global Plan provides information on progress towards eliminating new HIV infections among children; the UNAIDS Believe it. Do it website provides information about the campaign to support the UNAIDS global plan
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS, including stories from young people infected with HIV, are available through Avert, NAM/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001608
PMCID: PMC3934828  PMID: 24586123
4.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
5.  Cesarean Section and Rate of Subsequent Stillbirth, Miscarriage, and Ectopic Pregnancy: A Danish Register-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001670.
Louise Kenny and colleagues conduct a population-based cohort study in Denmark to assess the likelihood of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following cesarean section compared to women who gave birth by vaginal delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
With cesarean section rates increasing worldwide, clarity regarding negative effects is essential. This study aimed to investigate the rate of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following primary cesarean section, controlling for confounding by indication.
Methods and Findings
We performed a population-based cohort study using Danish national registry data linking various registers. The cohort included primiparous women with a live birth between January 1, 1982, and December 31, 2010 (n = 832,996), with follow-up until the next event (stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy) or censoring by live birth, death, emigration, or study end. Cox regression models for all types of cesarean sections, sub-group analyses by type of cesarean, and competing risks analyses for the causes of stillbirth were performed. An increased rate of stillbirth (hazard ratio [HR] 1.14, 95% CI 1.01, 1.28) was found in women with primary cesarean section compared to spontaneous vaginal delivery, giving a theoretical absolute risk increase (ARI) of 0.03% for stillbirth, and a number needed to harm (NNH) of 3,333 women. Analyses by type of cesarean section showed similarly increased rates for emergency (HR 1.15, 95% CI 1.01, 1.31) and elective cesarean (HR 1.11, 95% CI 0.91, 1.35), although not statistically significant in the latter case. An increased rate of ectopic pregnancy was found among women with primary cesarean overall (HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04, 1.15) and by type (emergency cesarean, HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.03, 1.15, and elective cesarean, HR 1.12, 95% CI 1.03, 1.21), yielding an ARI of 0.1% and a NNH of 1,000 women for ectopic pregnancy. No increased rate of miscarriage was found among women with primary cesarean, with maternally requested cesarean section associated with a decreased rate of miscarriage (HR 0.72, 95% CI 0.60, 0.85). Limitations include incomplete data on maternal body mass index, maternal smoking, fertility treatment, causes of stillbirth, and maternally requested cesarean section, as well as lack of data on antepartum/intrapartum stillbirth and gestational age for stillbirth and miscarriage.
Conclusions
This study found that cesarean section is associated with a small increased rate of subsequent stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy. Underlying medical conditions, however, and confounding by indication for the primary cesarean delivery account for at least part of this increased rate. These findings will assist women and health-care providers to reach more informed decisions regarding mode of delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, increasing numbers of babies are being delivered by cesarean section (a surgical operation in which the baby is delivered through a cut made in the mother's abdomen and womb) instead of naturally through their mother's vagina. In England in 2010, for example, nearly 25% of all babies were delivered by cesarean section (also called C-section) compared to only 2% in the 1950s; in China and some parts of South America cesarean rates are now between 40% and 50%. A cesarean section is usually performed when a vaginal birth would endanger the life of the mother or her unborn child because, for example, the baby is in the wrong position. Some cesareans are performed as emergency procedures, but others are planned in advance when the need for the operation becomes clear during pregnancy (an elective cesarean). Some planned cesarean sections are also undertaken because the mother has requested a cesarean delivery in the absence of any medical reasons for such a delivery.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cesarean sections save lives but do they have any negative impacts on the outcome of subsequent pregnancies? With so many cesarean sections being undertaken, it is important to be sure that the procedure does not increase the rates of subsequent miscarriage, stillbirth, or ectopic pregnancy. Miscarriage—the loss of a fetus (developing baby) that is unable to survive independently—is the commonest complication of early pregnancy, affecting about one in five women who know they are pregnant. Stillbirth is fetal death after about 20–24 weeks of pregnancy; the exact definition of stillbirth varies between countries. About four million stillbirths occur each year worldwide. Ectopic pregnancy—development of the fetus outside the womb—occurs in 1%–2% of all pregnancies. In this population-based cohort study, the researchers investigate the rates of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following a cesarean section among women living in Denmark. A population-based cohort study determines the baseline characteristics of the individuals in a population, and then follows the population over time to see whether specific characteristics are associated with specific outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained data for 832,996 women from Danish national registers about their first live birth (including whether they had a cesarean) then followed the women (again using the registers) until they had a stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy, or a second live birth. The researchers used these data and statistical models to estimate the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following a cesarean compared to a spontaneous vaginal delivery after controlling for the possibility that the cesarean was performed because of an indication that might increase the risk of a subsequent event (confounding). Women who had had a cesarean had a 14% increased risk of a stillbirth in their next pregnancy compared to women who had had a vaginal delivery, corresponding to an absolute risk increase of 0.03%. In other words, 3,333 women would need to have a cesarean to result in one extra stillbirth in subsequent pregnancy (a “number needed to harm” of 3,333). Compared to vaginal delivery, having a cesarean increased the risk of a subsequent ectopic pregnancy by 9% (an absolute risk increase of 0.1% and a number needed to harm of 1,000) but did not increase the rate of subsequent miscarriages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among women living in Denmark, cesarean section is associated with a slightly increased rate of subsequent stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy. Part of this increase can be accounted for by underlying medical conditions and by confounding by the indication for the primary cesarean section. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by limitations in the study such as incomplete data on some factors (for example, the smoking history of the mother) that might have affected the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy, and by misclassification or underreporting of the study outcomes. Given the global increase in cesarean rates, these findings suggest that cesarean delivery is not associated with an increased rate of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy, an important finding for both expectant mothers and health-care professionals that nonetheless needs to be confirmed in further large-scale studies. Finally, these findings highlight the need for women to consider all their options thoroughly before requesting a cesarean section on non-medical grounds.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001670.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides patient fact sheets on cesarean birth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy
The US-based non-profit Nemours Foundation provides information about cesarean sections, miscarriage and stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about cesarean section, miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about cesarean section, miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The UK non-profit organization Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about cesarean delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001670
PMCID: PMC4077571  PMID: 24983970
6.  Association between Prenatal Exposure to Antiretroviral Therapy and Birth Defects: An Analysis of the French Perinatal Cohort Study (ANRS CO1/CO11) 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001635.
Jeanne Sibiude and colleagues use the French Perinatal Cohort to estimate the prevalence of birth defects in children born to HIV-infected women receiving antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has major benefits during pregnancy, both for maternal health and to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Safety issues, including teratogenic risk, need to be evaluated. We estimated the prevalence of birth defects in children born to HIV-infected women receiving ART during pregnancy, and assessed the independent association of birth defects with each antiretroviral (ARV) drug used.
Methods and Findings
The French Perinatal Cohort prospectively enrolls HIV-infected women delivering in 90 centers throughout France. Children are followed by pediatricians until 2 y of age according to national guidelines.
We included 13,124 live births between 1994 and 2010, among which, 42% (n = 5,388) were exposed to ART in the first trimester of pregnancy. Birth defects were studied using both European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT) and Metropolitan Atlanta Congenital Defects Program (MACDP) classifications; associations with ART were evaluated using univariate and multivariate logistic regressions. Correction for multiple comparisons was not performed because the analyses were based on hypotheses emanating from previous findings in the literature and the robustness of the findings of the current study. The prevalence of birth defects was 4.4% (95% CI 4.0%–4.7%), according to the EUROCAT classification. In multivariate analysis adjusting for other ARV drugs, maternal age, geographical origin, intravenous drug use, and type of maternity center, a significant association was found between exposure to zidovudine in the first trimester and congenital heart defects: 2.3% (74/3,267), adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.2 (95% CI 1.3–3.7), p = 0.003, absolute risk difference attributed to zidovudine +1.2% (95% CI +0.5; +1.9%). Didanosine and indinavir were associated with head and neck defects, respectively: 0.5%, AOR = 3.4 (95% CI 1.1–10.4), p = 0.04; 0.9%, AOR = 3.8 (95% CI 1.1–13.8), p = 0.04. We found a significant association between efavirenz and neurological defects (n = 4) using the MACDP classification: AOR = 3.0 (95% CI 1.1–8.5), p = 0.04, absolute risk +0.7% (95% CI +0.07%; +1.3%). But the association was not significant using the less inclusive EUROCAT classification: AOR = 2.1 (95% CI 0.7–5.9), p = 0.16. No association was found between birth defects and lopinavir or ritonavir with a power >85% for an odds ratio of 1.5, nor for nevirapine, tenofovir, stavudine, or abacavir with a power >70%. Limitations of the present study were the absence of data on termination of pregnancy, stillbirths, tobacco and alcohol intake, and concomitant medication.
Conclusions
We found a specific association between in utero exposure to zidovudine and heart defects; the mechanisms need to be elucidated. The association between efavirenz and neurological defects must be interpreted with caution. For the other drugs not associated with birth defects, the results were reassuring. Finally, whatever the impact that some ARV drugs may have on birth defects, it is surpassed by the major role of ART in the successful prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
AIDS and HIV infection are commonly treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), a combination of individual drugs that work together to prevent the replication of the virus and further spread of the infection. Starting in the 1990s, studies have shown that ART of HIV-infected women can substantially reduce transmission of the virus to the child during pregnancy and birth. Based on these results, ART was subsequently recommended for pregnant women. Since 2004, ART has been standard therapy for pregnant women with HIV/AIDS in high-income countries, and it is now recommended for all HIV-infected women worldwide. Several different antiviral drug combinations have been shown to be effective and are used to prevent mother-to-infant transmission. However, as with any other drugs taken during pregnancy, there is concern that ART can harm the developing fetus.
Why Was This Study Done?
Several previous studies have assessed the risk that ART taken by a pregnant woman might pose to her developing fetus, but the results have been inconsistent. Animal studies suggested an elevated risk for some drugs but not others. While some clinical studies have reported increases in birth defects in children born to mothers on ART, others have shown no such increase.
The discrepancy may be due to differences between the populations included in the studies and the different methods used to diagnose birth defects. Additional large studies are therefore necessary to obtain more and better evidence on the potential harm of individual anti-HIV drugs to children exposed during pregnancy. So in this study, the authors conducted a large cohort study in France to assess the relationship between different antiretroviral drugs and specific birth defects.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a large national health database known as the French Perinatal Cohort that contains information on HIV-infected mothers who delivered infants in 90 centers throughout France. Pediatricians follow all children, whatever their HIV status, to two years of age, and health statistics are collected according to national health-care guidelines. Analyzing the records, the researchers estimated the rate at which birth defects occurred in children exposed to antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy.
The researchers included 13,124 children who were born alive between 1994 and 2010 and had been exposed to ART during pregnancy. Children exposed in the first trimester of pregnancy, and those exposed during the second or third trimester, were compared to a control group (children not exposed to the drug during the whole pregnancy). Using two birth defect classification systems (EUROCAT and MACDP—MACDP collects more details on disease classification than EUROCAT), the researchers sought to detect a link between the occurrence of birth defects and exposure to individual antiretroviral drugs.
They found a small increase in the risk for heart defects in children with exposure to zidovudine. They also found an association between efavirenz exposure and a small increase in neurological defects, but only when using the MACDP classification system. The authors found no association between other antiretroviral drugs, including nevirapine (acting similar to efavirenz); tenofovir, stavudine, and abacavir (all three acting similar to zidovudine); and lopinavir and ritonavir (proteinase inhibitors) and any type of birth defect.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, overall, the risks of birth defects in children exposed to antiretroviral drugs in utero are small when considering the clear benefit of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. However, where there are safe and effective alternatives, it might be appropriate to avoid use by pregnant women of those drugs that are associated with elevated risks of birth defects.
Worldwide, a large number of children are exposed to zidovudine in utero, and these results suggest (though cannot prove) that these children may be at a slightly higher risk of heart defects. Current World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission no longer recommend zidovudine for first-line therapy.
The implications of the higher rate of neurological birth defects observed in infants exposed to efavirenz in the first trimester are less clear. The EUROCAT classification excludes minor neurological abnormalities without serious medical consequences, and so the WHO guidelines that stress the importance of careful clinical follow-up of children with exposure to efavirenz seem adequate, based on the findings of this study. The study is limited by the lack of data on the use of additional medication and alcohol and tobacco use, which could have a direct impact on fetal development, and by the absence of data on birth defects and antiretroviral drug exposure from low-income countries. However, the findings of this study overall are reassuring and suggest that apart from zidovudine and possibly efavirenz, other antiretroviral drugs are not associated with birth defects, and their use during pregnancy does not pose a risk to the infant.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001635.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Mofenson and Watts
The World Health Organization has a webpage on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
The US National Institutes of Health provides links to additional information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation also has a webpage on mother-to-child transmission
The French Perinatal Cohort has a webpage describing the cohort and its main publications (in French, with a summary in English)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001635
PMCID: PMC4004551  PMID: 24781315
7.  Reproductive Outcomes Following Ectopic Pregnancy: Register-Based Retrospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001243.
Using Scottish national registry data, Sohinee Bhattacharya and colleagues investigate pregnancy outcomes following ectopic pregnancy in comparison to livebirth, miscarriage, or termination in a first pregnancy.
Background
We aimed to compare reproductive outcomes following ectopic pregnancy (EP) versus livebirth, miscarriage, or termination in a first pregnancy.
Methods And Findings
A retrospective cohort study design was used. Scottish national data on all women whose first pregnancy occurred between 1981 and 2000 were linked to records of a subsequent pregnancy. The exposed cohort comprised women with an EP in their first pregnancy. There were three unexposed cohorts: women with livebirth, miscarriage, and termination of their first pregnancies. Any differences in rates of second pregnancy, livebirth, EP, miscarriage, or terminations and complications of a second ongoing pregnancy and delivery were assessed among the different exposure groups. A total of 2,969 women had an initial EP; 667,299 had a livebirth, 39,705 women miscarried, and 78,697 terminated their first pregnancies. Women with an initial EP had an increased chance of another pregnancy within 2 years (adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) 2.76 [95% CI 2.58–2.95]) or after 6 years (AHR 1.57 [95% CI 1.29–1.91]) compared to women with a livebirth. In comparison with women with an initial miscarriage, women who had an EP had a lower chance of a second pregnancy (AHR 0.53 [95% CI 0.50–0.56]). Compared to women with an initial termination, women with an EP had an increased chance of a second pregnancy (AHR 2.38 [95% CI 2.23–2.55]) within 2 years. Women with an initial EP suffered an increased risk of another EP compared to women with a livebirth (AHR 13.0 [95% CI 11.63–16.86]), miscarriage (AHR 6.07 [95% CI 4.83–7.62]), or termination (AHR 12.84 [95% CI 10.07–16.37]). Perinatal complications in a pregnancy following EP were not significantly higher than those in primigravidae or in women with a previous miscarriage or termination.
Conclusion
Women with an initial EP have a lower chance of conception than those who miscarry but an increased risk of a repeat EP in comparison with all three comparison groups. A major limitation of this study was the inability to separate women using contraception from those who were intending to conceive.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo (fertilized egg) implants outside the uterine cavity, usually in the fallopian tubes but sometimes in the cervix, ovaries, or abdomen. The prevalence for this condition is between 1%–2% of all pregnancies, and risk factors are thought to include pelvic infection, smoking, previous pelvic surgery, and use of certain types of intrauterine contraceptive devices. Ectopic pregnancies are potentially life threatening because as the fetus grows, it can lead to tubal rupture and abdominal bleeding—for example, in the UK, ectopic pregnancies are responsible for almost three-quarters of early pregnancy-related deaths. However, due to improvements in early diagnosis, in high income countries, deaths from ectopic pregnancies have become increasingly rare.
Why Was This Study Done?
Having an ectopic pregnancy can have serious implications for future fertility and subsequent pregnancies but to date, there is little information on reproductive outcomes in women who have had an ectopic pregnancy. So in this study, the researchers used a population-based cohort of women in Scotland to examine future reproductive outcomes in women who had an initial ectopic pregnancy and then compare these outcomes to those in women following a successful (live birth) or unsuccessful (miscarriage or termination) intrauterine pregnancy.
What Did The Researchers Do And Find?
The researchers used a national database (The Scottish Morbidity Record) and hospital discharge information to identify women who had ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, terminations, or on-going pregnancies between 1981–2000. Then, using unique linking identifiers, they were able to examine the outcomes of subsequent pregnancies and conducted a statistical analysis to investigate whether the first pregnancy outcome had any effect on second pregnancy outcomes.
 The researchers found that during the time period studied, in their first pregnancy, 2,969 women had an ectopic pregnancy, 39,705 women miscarried, 78,697 women underwent termination, and the majority, 667,299, gave birth to a live infant. The researchers then found that compared to women with an initial live birth, women with an ectopic pregnancy were 2.76 times more likely to conceive a second pregnancy within two years. However, compared to women whose first pregnancies ended in miscarriage, women with an initial ectopic pregnancy were significantly less likely to conceive a second time but had an increased chance of a second pregnancy within two years compared to women who terminated their first pregnancy. Importantly, the researchers found that women with an initial ectopic pregnancy had a higher risk of a further ectopic pregnancy compared to all the other groups of women. Furthermore, these women had a significantly higher risk of preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and emergency cesarean delivery in their next continuing pregnancy compared to women who had a previous live birth. However, these risks were not significantly higher than women who had an early loss in a first pregnancy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that women with an initial ectopic pregnancy have a lower chance of conception than those who miscarry and also have an increased risk of a repeat ectopic pregnancy compared to women who experience miscarriage, termination, or a live birth in their first pregnancy. However, as the researchers did not have any information on contraception use, a major limitation of this study is the inability to separate women using contraception from those who were intending to conceive—women who experienced an ectopic pregnancy may not want to conceive again after a traumatic experience rather than being unable to conceive because of tubal damage. However, the results of this study may help doctors to counsel women with an ectopic pregnancy at the time of initial diagnosis and treatment, and in those willing to conceive again, offer follow-up to discuss future fertility and possible risks of subsequent pregnancy. Further research will help to investigate whether the site of ectopic pregnancy affects future reproductive outcomes.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001243.
The American Pregnancy Association and the UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices give information on ectopic pregnancy
The UK nonprofit organization Ectopic Pregnancy Trust provides support for individuals affected by ectopic pregnancy
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001243
PMCID: PMC3378618  PMID: 22723747
8.  How long after a miscarriage should women wait before becoming pregnant again? Multivariate analysis of cohort data from Matlab, Bangladesh 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001591.
Objective
To determine the optimum interpregnancy interval (IPI) following a miscarriage.
Design
Multivariate analysis of population-based, prospective data from a demographic surveillance system.
Setting
Pregnancies in Matlab, Bangladesh, between 1977 and 2008.
Participants
9214 women with 10 453 pregnancies that ended in a miscarriage and were followed by another pregnancy outcome.
Main outcome measures
Outcome of pregnancy following the miscarriage was singleton live birth, stillbirth, miscarriage or induced abortion. For pregnancies that ended in live birth: early neonatal, late neonatal and postneonatal mortality.
Results
Compared with IPIs of 6–12 months, pregnancies that were conceived ≤3 months after a miscarriage were more likely to result in a live birth and less likely to result in a miscarriage (adjusted relative risk ratio (RRR) 0.70, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.86) or induced abortion (0.50, 0.29 to 0.89). Induced abortions were significantly more likely following IPIs of 18–24 months (2.36, 1.48 to 3.76), 36–48 months (2.73, 1.50 to 4.94), and >48 months (3.32, 1.68 to 2.95), and miscarriages were more likely following IPIs of 12–17 months (1.25, 1.01 to 1.56) and >48 months (1.90, 1.40 to 2.58). No significant effects of IPI duration are seen on the risks of a stillbirth. However, IPIs≤3 months following a miscarriage are associated with significantly higher late neonatal mortality for the infant born at the end of the IPI (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 1.74, 1.06 to 2.84), and IPIs of 12–18 months are associated with a significantly lower unadjusted risk of postneonatal mortality (0.54, 0.30 to 0.96).
Conclusions
The shorter the IPI following a miscarriage, the more likely the subsequent pregnancy is to result in a live birth. However, very short IPIs may not be advisable following miscarriages in poor countries like Bangladesh because they are associated with a higher risk of mortality for the infants born after them.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001591
PMCID: PMC3425891  PMID: 22907047
Reproductive Medicine; pregnancy outcome; pregnancy spacing; miscarriage; abortion; infant mortality
9.  HIV: prevention of mother-to-child transmission  
Clinical Evidence  2011;2011:0909.
Introduction
Over 2 million children are thought to be living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, of whom over 80% live in sub-Saharan Africa. Without antiretroviral treatment, the risk of HIV transmission from infected mothers to their children is 15% to 30% during gestation or labour, with an additional transmission risk of 10% to 20% associated with prolonged breastfeeding. HIV-1 infection accounts for most infections; HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child. Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads, advanced disease, or both, in the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases, and with increased exposure to maternal blood. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding are also associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical question: What are the effects of measures to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library, and other important databases up to October 2009 (Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
Results
We found 53 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria.
Conclusions
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: antiretroviral drugs, different methods of infant feeding, elective caesarean section, immunotherapy, micronutrient supplements, vaginal microbicides, and vitamin supplements.
Key Points
Without active intervention, the risk of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV-1 is high, especially in populations where prolonged breastfeeding is the norm. Without antiviral treatment, the risk of transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their children is approximately 15% to 30% during pregnancy and labour, with an additional transmission risk of 10% to 20% associated with prolonged breastfeeding.HIV-2 is rarely transmitted from mother to child.Transmission is more likely in mothers with high viral loads, advanced HIV disease, or both.Without antiretroviral treatment (ART), 15% to 35% of vertically infected infants die within the first year of life.The long-term treatment of children with ART is complicated by multiple concerns regarding the complications associated with life-long treatment, including adverse effects of antiretroviral drugs, difficulties of adherence across the developmental trajectory of childhood and adolescence, and the development of resistance.From a paediatric perspective, successful prevention of MTCT and HIV-free survival for infants remain the most important focus.
Antiretroviral drugs given to the mother during pregnancy or labour, to the baby immediately after birth, or to the mother and baby reduce the risk of intrauterine and intrapartum MTCT of HIV-1 and when given to the infant after birth and to the mother or infant during breastfeeding reduce the risk of postpartum MTCT of HIV-1.
Reductions in MTCT are possible using multidrug ART regimens. Longer courses of ART are more effective, but the greatest benefit is derived from treatment during late pregnancy, labour, and early infancy.Suppression of the maternal viral load to undetectable levels (below 50 copies/mL) using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) offers the greatest risk reduction, and is currently the standard of care offered in most resource-rich countries, where MTCT rates have been reduced to 1% to 2%. Alternative short-course regimens have been tested in resource-limited settings where HAART is not yet widely available. There is evidence that short courses of antiretroviral drugs have confirmed efficacy for reducing MTCT. Identifying optimal short-course regimens (drug combination, timing, and cost effectiveness) for various settings remains a focus for ongoing research.The development of viral resistance in mothers and infants after single-dose nevirapine and other short-course regimens that include single-dose nevirapine is of concern. An additional short-course of antiretrovirals with a different regimen during labour and early postpartum, and the use of HAART, may decrease the risk of viral resistance in mothers, and in infants who become HIV-infected despite prophylaxis.World Health Organization guidelines recommend starting prophylaxis with antiretroviral drugs from as early as 14 weeks' gestation, or as soon as possible if women present late in pregnancy, in labour, or at delivery.
Elective caesarean section at 38 weeks may reduce vertical transmission rates (apart from breast-milk transmission). The potential benefits of this intervention need to be balanced against the increased risk of surgery-associated complications, high cost, and feasibility issues. These reservations are particularly relevant in resource-limited settings.
Immunotherapy with HIV hyperimmune globulin seems no more effective than immunoglobulin without HIV antibody at reducing HIV-1 MTCT risk.
Vaginal microbicides have not been demonstrated to reduce HIV-1 MTCT risk.
There is no evidence that supplementation with vitamin A reduces the risk of HIV-1 MTCT, and there is concern that postnatal vitamin A supplementation for mother and infant may be associated with increased risk of mortality.
We don't know whether micronutrients are effective in prevention of MTCT of HIV as we found no RCT evidence on this outcome.
Avoidance of breastfeeding prevents postpartum transmission of HIV, but formula feeding requires access to clean water and health education. The risk of breastfeeding-related HIV transmission needs to be balanced against the multiple benefits that breastfeeding offers. In resource-poor countries, breastfeeding is strongly associated with reduced infant morbidity and improved child survival. Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months may reduce the risk of HIV transmission compared with mixed feeding, while retaining most of its associated benefits.In a population where prolonged breastfeeding is usual, early, abrupt weaning may not reduce MTCT or HIV-free survival at 2 years compared with prolonged breastfeeding, and may be associated with a higher rate of infant mortality for those infants diagnosed as HIV-infected at <4 months of age. Antiretrovirals given to the mother or the infant during breastfeeding can reduce the risk of HIV transmission in the postpartum period. World Health Organization guidelines recommend that HIV-positive mothers should exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, after which time appropriate complementary foods can be introduced. Breastfeeding should be continued for the first 12 months of the infant's life, and stopped only when an adequate diet without breast milk can be provided. Heat- or microbicidal-treated expressed breast milk may offer value in particular settings.
PMCID: PMC3217724  PMID: 21477392
10.  Effect of Facilitation of Local Maternal-and-Newborn Stakeholder Groups on Neonatal Mortality: Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001445.
Lars Åke Persson and colleagues conduct a cluster randomised control in northern Vietnam to analyze the effect of the activity of local community-based maternal-and-newborn stakeholder groups on neonatal mortality.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Facilitation of local women's groups may reportedly reduce neonatal mortality. It is not known whether facilitation of groups composed of local health care staff and politicians can improve perinatal outcomes. We hypothesised that facilitation of local stakeholder groups would reduce neonatal mortality (primary outcome) and improve maternal, delivery, and newborn care indicators (secondary outcomes) in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam.
Methods and Findings
In a cluster-randomized design 44 communes were allocated to intervention and 46 to control. Laywomen facilitated monthly meetings during 3 years in groups composed of health care staff and key persons in the communes. A problem-solving approach was employed. Births and neonatal deaths were monitored, and interviews were performed in households of neonatal deaths and of randomly selected surviving infants. A latent period before effect is expected in this type of intervention, but this timeframe was not pre-specified. Neonatal mortality rate (NMR) from July 2008 to June 2011 was 16.5/1,000 (195 deaths per 11,818 live births) in the intervention communes and 18.4/1,000 (194 per 10,559 live births) in control communes (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.96 [95% CI 0.73–1.25]). There was a significant downward time trend of NMR in intervention communes (p = 0.003) but not in control communes (p = 0.184). No significant difference in NMR was observed during the first two years (July 2008 to June 2010) while the third year (July 2010 to June 2011) had significantly lower NMR in intervention arm: adjusted OR 0.51 (95% CI 0.30–0.89). Women in intervention communes more frequently attended antenatal care (adjusted OR 2.27 [95% CI 1.07–4.8]).
Conclusions
A randomized facilitation intervention with local stakeholder groups composed of primary care staff and local politicians working for three years with a perinatal problem-solving approach resulted in increased attendance to antenatal care and reduced neonatal mortality after a latent period.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN44599712
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Over the past few years, there has been enormous international effort to meet the target set by Millennium Development Goal 4 to reduce the under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds and to reduce the number of maternal deaths by three-quarters, respectively, from the 1990 level by 2015. There has been some encouraging progress and according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, in 2011, just under 7 million children aged under 5 years died, a fall of almost 3 million from a decade ago. However, currently, 41% of all deaths among children under the age of 5 years occur around birth and the first 28 days of life (perinatal and neonatal mortality). Simple interventions can substantially reduce neonatal deaths and there have been several international, national, and local efforts to implement effective care packages to help reduce the number of neonatal deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
In order for these interventions to be most effective, it is important that the local community becomes involved. Community mobilization, especially through local women's groups, can empower women to prioritize specific interventions to help improve their own health and that of their baby. An alternative strategy might be to mobilize people who already have responsibility to promote health and welfare in society, such as primary care staff, village health workers, and elected political representatives. However, it is unclear if the activities of such stakeholder groups result in improved neonatal survival. So in this study from northern Vietnam, the researchers analyzed the effect of the activity of local maternal-and-newborn stakeholder groups on neonatal mortality.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between 2008 and 2011, the researchers conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in 90 communes within the Quang Ninh province of northeast of Vietnam: 44 communes were allocated to intervention and 46 to the control. The local women's union facilitated recruitment to the intervention, local stakeholder groups (Maternal and Newborn Health Groups), which comprised primary care staff, village health workers, women's union representatives, and the person with responsibility for health in the commune. The groups' role was to identify and prioritize local perinatal health problems and implement actions to help overcome these problems.
Over the three-year period, the Maternal and Newborn Health Groups in the 44 intervention communes had 1,508 meetings. Every year 15–27 unique problems were identified and addressed 94–151 times. The problem-solving processes resulted in an annual number of 19–27 unique actions that were applied 297–649 times per year. The top priority problems and actions identified by these groups dealt with antenatal care attendance, post-natal visits, nutrition and rest during pregnancy, home deliveries, and breast feeding. Neonatal mortality in the intervention group did not change over the first two years but showed a significant improvement in the third year. The three leading causes of death were prematurity/low birth-weight (36%), intrapartum-related neonatal deaths (30%), and infections (15%). Stillbirth rates were 7.4 per 1,000 births in the intervention arm and 9.0 per 1,000 births in the control arm. There was one maternal death in the intervention communes and four in the control communes and there was a significant improvement in antenatal care attendance in the intervention arm. However, there were no significant differences between the intervention and control groups of other outcomes, including tetanus immunization, delivery preparedness, institutional delivery, temperature control at delivery, early initiation of breastfeeding, or home visit of a midwife during the first week after delivery.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that local stakeholder groups comprised of primary care staff and local politicians using a problem-solving approach may help to reduce the neonatal mortality rate after three years of implementation (although the time period for an expected reduction in neonatal mortality was not specified before the trial started) and may also increase the rate of antenatal care attendance. However, the intervention had no effect on other important outcomes such as the rate of institutional delivery and breast feeding. This study used a novel approach of community-based activity that was implemented into the public sector system at low cost. A further reduction in neonatal deaths around delivery might be achieved by neonatal resuscitation training and home visits to the mother and her baby.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001445.
The World Health Organization provides comprehensive statistics on neonatal mortality
The Healthy Newborn Network has information on community interventions to help reduce neonatal mortality from around the world
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001445
PMCID: PMC3653802  PMID: 23690755
11.  HIV-1 Drug Resistance Emergence among Breastfeeding Infants Born to HIV-Infected Mothers during a Single-Arm Trial of Triple-Antiretroviral Prophylaxis for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission: A Secondary Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000430.
Analysis of a substudy of the Kisumu breastfeeding trial by Clement Zeh and colleagues reveals the emergence of HIV drug resistance in HIV-positive infants born to HIV-infected mothers treated with antiretroviral drugs.
Background
Nevirapine and lamivudine given to mothers are transmitted to infants via breastfeeding in quantities sufficient to have biologic effects on the virus; this may lead to an increased risk of a breastfed infant's development of resistance to maternal antiretrovirals. The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), a single-arm open-label prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) trial, assessed the safety and efficacy of zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir given to HIV-infected women from 34 wk gestation through 6 mo of breastfeeding. Here, we present findings from a KiBS trial secondary analysis that evaluated the emergence of maternal ARV-associated resistance among 32 HIV-infected breastfed infants.
Methods and Findings
All infants in the cohort were tested for HIV infection using DNA PCR at multiple study visits during the 24 mo of the study, and plasma RNA viral load for all HIV-PCR–positive infants was evaluated retrospectively. Specimens from mothers and infants with viral load >1,000 copies/ml were tested for HIV drug resistance mutations. Overall, 32 infants were HIV infected by 24 mo of age, and of this group, 24 (75%) infants were HIV infected by 6 mo of age. Of the 24 infants infected by 6 mo, nine were born to mothers on a nelfinavir-based regimen, whereas the remaining 15 were born to mothers on a nevirapine-based regimen. All infants were also given single-dose nevirapine within 48 hours of birth. We detected genotypic resistance mutations in none of eight infants who were HIV-PCR positive by 2 wk of age (specimens from six infants were not amplifiable), for 30% (6/20) at 6 wk, 63% (14/22) positive at 14 wk, and 67% (16/24) at 6 mo post partum. Among the 16 infants with resistance mutations by 6 mo post partum, the common mutations were M184V and K103N, conferring resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine, respectively. Genotypic resistance was detected among 9/9 (100%) and 7/15 (47%) infected infants whose mothers were on nelfinavir and nevirapine, respectively. No mutations were detected among the eight infants infected after the breastfeeding period (age 6 mo).
Conclusions
Emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants occurred between 2 wk and 6 mo post partum, most likely because of exposure to maternal ARV drugs through breast milk. Our findings may impact the choice of regimen for ARV treatment of HIV-infected breastfeeding mothers and their infected infants.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146380
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, more than 2 million children are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and half a million children are newly infected every year. These infections are mainly the result of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding. MTCT can be greatly reduced by treating HIV-positive mothers and their babies with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Without ARVs, up to half of babies born to HIV-positive mothers become infected with HIV. This rate of transmission falls to below 5% if a combination of three ARVs is given to the mother throughout pregnancy. Unfortunately, this triple-ARV therapy is too expensive for use in the resource-limited countries where most MTCT occurs. Instead, many such countries have introduced simpler, shorter ARV regimens such as a daily dose of zidovudine (a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NRTI) given to HIV-positive women during late pregnancy coupled with single-dose nevirapine (a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NNRTI) at the onset of labor, zidovudine and lamivudine (another NRTI) during labor and delivery, and single-dose nevirapine given to the baby at birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
More than 95% of HIV-exposed children are born in resource-limited settings where breastfeeding is the norm and is crucial for child survival even though it poses a risk of HIV transmission. Consequently, several recent studies have investigated whether MTCT can be further reduced by giving the mother ARVs while she is breastfeeding. In the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), for example, researchers assessed the effects of giving zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir (a protease inhibitor) to HIV-infected women from 34 weeks of pregnancy through 6 months of breastfeeding. The results of KiBS indicate that this approach might be a safe, feasible way to reduce MTCT (see the accompanying paper by Thomas and colleagues). However, low amounts of nevirapine and lamivudine are transferred from mother to infant in breast milk and this exposure to ARVs could induce the development of resistance to ARVs among HIV-infected infants. In this KiBS substudy, the researchers investigate whether HIV drug resistance emerged in any of the HIV-positive infants in the parent study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In KiBS, 32 infants were HIV-positive at 24 months old; 24 were HIV-positive at 6 months old when their mothers stopped taking ARVs and when breastfeeding was supposed to stop. The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from these infants at various ages and from their mothers for the presence of HIV drug resistance mutations (DNA changes that make HIV resistant to killing by ARVs). They detected no resistance mutations in samples taken from 2-week old HIV-positive infants or from the infants who became infected after the age of 6 months. However, they found resistance mutations in a third and two-thirds of samples taken from 6-week and 6-month old HIV-positive infants, respectively. The commonest mutations conferred resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine. Moreover, resistance mutations were present in samples taken from all the HIV-positive infants whose mothers who had received nelfinavir but in only half those taken from infants whose mothers who had received nevirapine. Finally, most of the mothers of HIV-positive infants had no HIV drug resistance mutations, and only one mother-infant pair had an overlapping pattern of HIV drug resistance mutations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this KiBS substudy, the emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants whose mothers were receiving ARVs occurred between 2 weeks and 6 months after birth. The pattern of mutations suggests that drug resistance most likely arose through exposure of the infants to low levels of ARVs in breast milk rather than through MTCT of drug-resistant virus. These findings need confirming but suggest that infants exposed to ARVs through breast milk—a situation that may become increasingly common given the reduction in MTCT seen in KiBS and other similar trials—should be carefully monitored for HIV infection. Providers should consider the mothers' regimen when choosing treatment for infants who are found to be HIV-infected despite maternal triple drug prophylaxis. Infants exposed to a maternal regimen with NNRTI drugs should receive first-line therapy with lopinavir/ritonavir, a protease inhibitor. The significance of the NRTI mutations such as M184V with regard to response to therapy needs further evaluation. The M184V mutation may result in hypersensitization to other NRTI drugs and delay or reverse zidovudine resistance. Given the limited availability of alternative drugs for infants in resource-limited settings, provision of the standard WHO-recommended first-line NRTI backbone, which includes 3TC, with enhanced monitoring of the infant to ensure virologic suppression, could be considered. Such an approach should reduce both illness and morbidity among infants who become HIV positive through breastfeeding.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430.
The accompanying PLoS Medicine Research article by Thomas and colleagues describes the primary findings of the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children, HIV, and AIDS and on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
The World Health organization has information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in several languages), and guidance on the use of ARVs for preventing MTCT
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430
PMCID: PMC3066134  PMID: 21468304
12.  Global Estimates of Syphilis in Pregnancy and Associated Adverse Outcomes: Analysis of Multinational Antenatal Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(2):e1001396.
Using multinational surveillance data, Lori Newman and colleagues estimate global rates of active syphilis in pregnant women, adverse effects, and antenatal coverage and treatment needed to meet WHO goals.
Background
The World Health Organization initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of syphilis aims for ≥90% of pregnant women to be tested for syphilis and ≥90% to receive treatment by 2015. We calculated global and regional estimates of syphilis in pregnancy and associated adverse outcomes for 2008, as well as antenatal care (ANC) coverage for women with syphilis.
Methods and Findings
Estimates were based upon a health service delivery model. National syphilis seropositivity data from 97 of 193 countries and ANC coverage from 147 countries were obtained from World Health Organization databases. Proportions of adverse outcomes and effectiveness of screening and treatment were from published literature. Regional estimates of ANC syphilis testing and treatment were examined through sensitivity analysis. In 2008, approximately 1.36 million (range: 1.16 to 1.56 million) pregnant women globally were estimated to have probable active syphilis; of these, 80% had attended ANC. Globally, 520,905 (best case: 425,847; worst case: 615,963) adverse outcomes were estimated to be caused by maternal syphilis, including approximately 212,327 (174,938; 249,716) stillbirths (>28 wk) or early fetal deaths (22 to 28 wk), 91,764 (76,141; 107,397) neonatal deaths, 65,267 (56,929; 73,605) preterm or low birth weight infants, and 151,547 (117,848; 185,245) infected newborns. Approximately 66% of adverse outcomes occurred in ANC attendees who were not tested or were not treated for syphilis. In 2008, based on the middle case scenario, clinical services likely averted 26% of all adverse outcomes. Limitations include missing syphilis seropositivity data for many countries in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North America, and use of estimates for the proportion of syphilis that was “probable active,” and for testing and treatment coverage.
Conclusions
Syphilis continues to affect large numbers of pregnant women, causing substantial perinatal morbidity and mortality that could be prevented by early testing and treatment. In this analysis, most adverse outcomes occurred among women who attended ANC but were not tested or treated for syphilis, highlighting the need to improve the quality of ANC as well as ANC coverage. In addition, improved ANC data on syphilis testing coverage, positivity, and treatment are needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Syphilis—a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum—can pass from a mother who is infected to her unborn child. Screening pregnant women for syphilis during routine antenatal care by looking for a reaction to T. pallidum in the blood (seropositivity) and then treating any detected infections with penicillin injections has been feasible for many years, even in low-resource settings. However, because coverage of testing and treatment of syphilis remains low in many countries, mother-to-child transmission of syphilis—“congenital syphilis”—is still a global public health problem. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were 2 million syphilis infections among pregnant women annually, 65% of which resulted in adverse pregnancy outcomes: the baby's death during early or late pregnancy (fetal death and stillbirth, respectively) or soon after birth (neonatal death), or the birth of an infected baby. Babies born with syphilis often have a low birth weight and develop problems such as blindness, deafness, and seizures if not treated.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2007, WHO launched an initiative to eliminate congenital syphilis that set targets of at least 90% of pregnant women being tested for syphilis and at least 90% of seropositive pregnant women receiving adequate treatment by 2015. To assess the initiative's progress and to guide policy and advocacy efforts, accurate global data on the burden of syphilis in pregnancy and on associated adverse outcomes are needed. Unfortunately, even in developed countries with good laboratory facilities, definitive diagnosis of congenital syphilis is difficult. Estimates of the global burden can be obtained, however, using mathematical models. In this study, the researchers generate global and regional estimates of the burden of syphilis in pregnancy and associated adverse outcomes for 2008 using a health services delivery model.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model to estimate the number of syphilis-infected pregnant women in each country and in each region, and to estimate the regional and global numbers of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with syphilis. They used national syphilis seropositivity data and information on antenatal care coverage from WHO and estimates of the effectiveness of screening and treatment from published literature. Using these data and their model, the researchers estimated that, in 2008, 1.4 million pregnant women, 80% of whom had attended antenatal care services, had an active syphilis infection. Assuming a scenario in which the percentage of pregnant women tested for syphilis and adequately treated ranged from 30% for Africa and the Mediterranean region to 70% for Europe (a scenario defined in consultation with WHO advisors), the researchers estimated that maternal syphilis caused 520,000 adverse outcomes in 2008, including 215,000 stillbirths or fetal deaths, 90,000 neonatal deaths, 65,000 preterm or low birth weight infants, and 150,000 infants with congenital disease. About 66% of these adverse effects occurred in women who had attended antenatal care but were either not tested or not treated for syphilis. Finally, the researchers estimated that in 2008, clinical services averted 26% of all adverse outcomes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, which update and extend previous estimates of the global burden of congenital syphilis, indicate that syphilis continues to affect a large number of pregnant women and their offspring. The current findings, which cannot be directly compared to previous estimates because of the different methodologies used, are likely to be affected by the accuracy of the data fed into the researchers' model. In particular, the data on the percentage of the population infected with syphilis in individual countries used in this study came from the HIV Universal Access reporting system and may not be nationally representative. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that syphilis continues to be an important cause of adverse outcomes of pregnancy, partly because pregnant women often do not receive syphilis screening and prompt treatment during routine antenatal care. The researchers recommend, therefore, that all countries should ensure that all pregnant women receive an essential package of high-quality antenatal care services that includes routine and easy access to syphilis testing and treatment. Congenital syphilis, they conclude, can only be eliminated if decision-makers at all levels prioritize the provision, quality, and monitoring of this basic antenatal care service, which has the potential to reduce infant mortality and improve maternal health.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001396.
The World Health Organization provides information on sexually transmitted diseases, including details of its strategy for the global elimination of congenital syphilis, the investment case for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis, and regional updates on progress towards elimination (some information is available in several languages)
The Pan American Health Organization provides information on efforts to eliminate congenital syphilis in Latin America (in English and Spanish), and the Asia-Pacific Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission Task Force provides information on efforts to eliminate congenital syphilis in Asia Pacific
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a fact sheet on syphilis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also has a page on syphilis
MedlinePlus provides information on congenital syphilis and links to additional syphilis resources (in English and Spanish)
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides a toolkit for the introduction of rapid syphilis tests
Haiti: Congenital Syphilis on the Way Out is a YouTube video describing the introduction of rapid diagnostic tests for syphilis in remote parts of Haiti
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001396
PMCID: PMC3582608  PMID: 23468598
13.  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
14.  Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Pregnancy with Mefloquine in HIV-Infected Women Receiving Cotrimoxazole Prophylaxis: A Multicenter Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001735.
Clara Menéndez and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial among HIV-positive pregnant women in Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania to investigate the safety and efficacy of mefloquine as intermittent preventative therapy for malaria in women receiving cotrimoxazole prophylaxis and long-lasting insecticide treated nets.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is recommended for malaria prevention in HIV-negative pregnant women, but it is contraindicated in HIV-infected women taking daily cotrimoxazole prophylaxis (CTXp) because of potential added risk of adverse effects associated with taking two antifolate drugs simultaneously. We studied the safety and efficacy of mefloquine (MQ) in women receiving CTXp and long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITNs).
Methods and Findings
A total of 1,071 HIV-infected women from Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania were randomized to receive either three doses of IPTp-MQ (15 mg/kg) or placebo given at least one month apart; all received CTXp and a LLITN. IPTp-MQ was associated with reduced rates of maternal parasitemia (risk ratio [RR], 0.47 [95% CI 0.27–0.82]; p = 0.008), placental malaria (RR, 0.52 [95% CI 0.29–0.90]; p = 0.021), and reduced incidence of non-obstetric hospital admissions (RR, 0.59 [95% CI 0.37–0.95]; p = 0.031) in the intention to treat (ITT) analysis. There were no differences in the prevalence of adverse pregnancy outcomes between groups. Drug tolerability was poorer in the MQ group compared to the control group (29.6% referred dizziness and 23.9% vomiting after the first IPTp-MQ administration). HIV viral load at delivery was higher in the MQ group compared to the control group (p = 0.048) in the ATP analysis. The frequency of perinatal mother to child transmission of HIV was increased in women who received MQ (RR, 1.95 [95% CI 1.14–3.33]; p = 0.015). The main limitation of the latter finding relates to the exploratory nature of this part of the analysis.
Conclusions
An effective antimalarial added to CTXp and LLITNs in HIV-infected pregnant women can improve malaria prevention, as well as maternal health through reduction in hospital admissions. However, MQ was not well tolerated, limiting its potential for IPTp and indicating the need to find alternatives with better tolerability to reduce malaria in this particularly vulnerable group. MQ was associated with an increased risk of mother to child transmission of HIV, which warrants a better understanding of the pharmacological interactions between antimalarials and antiretroviral drugs.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT 00811421; Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR 2010020001813440
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease, kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children living in sub-Saharan Africa but pregnant women living in Africa are also very vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia (reduced red blood cell numbers), stillbirths, and pre-term and low-birthweight babies, and is responsible for the deaths of many African women and their babies. To reduce the loss of life from malaria in pregnancy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women living in Africa receive the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) at each scheduled antenatal care visit given at least a month apart (intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy [IPTp]). In addition, WHO advises pregnant women to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets to protect themselves from the bites of infected mosquitoes and recommends effective case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Pregnant women living in Africa are often infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV infection increases both the risk and severity of malaria infection during pregnancy, and at least one million pregnancies are complicated by co-infection with malaria and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa every year. WHO recommends that HIV-positive pregnant women take cotrimoxazole (CTX) daily to prevent opportunistic infections (CTX prophylaxis [CTXp]). Unfortunately, both CTX and SP are antifolate drugs and taking two drugs of this type increases a woman's risk of developing a severe skin reaction. Moreover, although CTXp protects children and HIV-infected adults against malaria, it is not known whether CTXp alone protects HIV-infected pregnant women adequately against malaria. Thus, evaluations of alternative drugs for use in IPTp in HIV-positive pregnant women are needed. In this randomized placebo-controlled trial, the researchers study the safety and efficacy of the antimalarial drug mefloquine (MQ) in HIV-infected women receiving CTXp. A randomized, placebo-controlled trial compares outcomes among people chosen through the play of chance to receive either the drug under investigation or a “dummy” (placebo) drug.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers allocated 1,071 HIV-infected pregnant women from Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania to receive three doses of MQ (IPTp-MQ), given at least one month apart, or three doses of placebo. All the women received CTXp and were given an insecticide-treated bed net. In an intention-to-treat analysis (an analysis that considers the outcomes of all trial participants irrespective of whether they receive their allocated treatment), the prevalence of parasitemia (parasites in the blood) at delivery among women given IPTp-MQ was 3.5% whereas the prevalence among women given the placebo was 6.9%. In other words, compared to placebo, IPTp-MQ was associated with a reduced risk of maternal parasitemia. IPTp-MQ was also associated with a reduced rate of placental malaria (parasites in the placenta) and a reduced incidence of hospital admissions for non-pregnancy related causes. There was no difference in adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth between the intervention groups but drug tolerability was poorer in the MQ group than in the placebo group. Finally, in an exploratory (unplanned) according-to-protocol analysis (an analysis that only considers outcomes in trial participants who receive their allocated intervention), women in the MQ group had a higher HIV viral load at delivery than women in the control group and were nearly twice as likely to transmit HIV to their child around the time of birth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the addition of IPTp-MQ to CTXp and the use of insecticide-treated bed nets can improve malaria prevention and maternal health in HIV-infected pregnant women in Africa. However, the poor tolerability of MQ and the association of MQ treatment with both an increased HIV viral load at delivery and a higher frequency of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV when compared to placebo raise concerns about the use of MQ in IPTp. Because these last two findings came from an exploratory analysis, which is more likely to throw up a chance finding than a pre-planned analysis further studies are needed to confirm these unexpected but potentially important findings. Nevertheless, overall, the findings of this study suggest that MQ should not be recommended for IPTp in HIV-infected pregnant women in Africa and highlight the need to find alternative drugs for malaria prevention in this group of women who are particularly vulnerable to malaria.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001735.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Richard Steketee.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by González et al. compares the efficacy of IPTp-MQ and IPTp-SP in HIV-negative women
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on malaria in pregnancy; information on IPTp and the current WHO policy recommendation on IPTp with SP are available; the 2013 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about the trial protocol is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001735
PMCID: PMC4172537  PMID: 25247995
15.  The Effectiveness of Emergency Obstetric Referral Interventions in Developing Country Settings: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001264.
In a systematic review of the literature, Julia Hussein and colleagues seek to determine the effect of referral interventions that enable emergency access to health facilities for pregnant women living in developing countries.
Background
Pregnancy complications can be unpredictable and many women in developing countries cannot access health facilities where life-saving care is available. This study assesses the effects of referral interventions that enable pregnant women to reach health facilities during an emergency, after the decision to seek care is made.
Methods and findings
Selected bibliographic databases were searched with no date or language restrictions. Randomised controlled trials and quasi experimental study designs with a comparison group were included. Outcomes of interest included maternal and neonatal mortality and other intermediate measures such as service utilisation. Two reviewers independently selected, appraised, and extracted articles using predefined fields. Forest plots, tables, and qualitative summaries of study quality, size, and direction of effect were used for analysis.
Nineteen studies were included. In South Asian settings, four studies of organisational interventions in communities that generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths, with the largest effect seen in India (odds ratio 0·48 95% CI 0·34–0·68). Three quasi experimental studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported reductions in stillbirths with maternity waiting home interventions, with one statistically significant result (OR 0.56 95% CI 0.32–0.96). Effects of interventions on maternal mortality were unclear. Referral interventions usually improved utilisation of health services but the opposite effect was also documented. The effects of multiple interventions in the studies could not be disentangled. Explanatory mechanisms through which the interventions worked could not be ascertained.
Conclusions
Community mobilisation interventions may reduce neonatal mortality but the contribution of referral components cannot be ascertained. The reduction in stillbirth rates resulting from maternity waiting homes needs further study. Referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. To inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, improved monitoring and evaluation practices are necessary, along with studies that develop better understanding of how interventions work.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all of these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 and a woman's life-time risk of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39. By contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12 and women have a life-time risk of maternal death of 1 in 4,700. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, all of which are preventable or treatable conditions. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which women will develop pregnancy complications, many complications rapidly become life-threatening and, in developing countries, women often deliver at home, far from emergency obstetric services; obstetrics deals with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce maternal deaths (and the deaths of babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and early life) in developing countries by ensuring that pregnant women are referred to emergency obstetric services quickly when the need arises. Unfortunately, in such countries referral to emergency obstetric care is beset with problems such as difficult geographical terrain, transport costs, lack of vehicles, and suboptimal location and distribution of health care facilities. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce the “phase II delay” in referral to emergency obstetric care in developing countries—the time it takes a woman to reach an appropriate health care facility once a problem has been recognized and the decision has been taken to seek care. Delays in diagnosis and the decision to seek care are phase I delays in referral, whereas delays in receiving care once a women reaches a health care facility are phase III delays.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 published studies that described 14 interventions designed to overcome phase II delays in emergency obstetric referral and that met their criteria for inclusion in their systematic review. About half of the interventions were organizational. That is, they were designed to overcome barriers to referral such as costs. Most of the remaining interventions were structural. That is, they involved the provision of, for example, ambulances and maternity waiting homes—placed close to a health care facility where women can stay during late pregnancy. Although seven studies provided data on maternal mortality, none showed a sustained, statistically significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in maternal deaths. Four studies in South Asia in which communities generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths (deaths of babies soon after birth), but the only statistically significant effect of this community mobilization intervention was seen in India where neonatal deaths were halved. Three studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported that the introduction of maternity waiting homes reduced stillbirths but this reduction was only significant in one study. Finally, although referral interventions generally improved the utilization of health services, in one study the provision of bicycle ambulances to take women to the hospital reduced the proportion of women delivering in health facilities, probably because women felt that bicycle ambulances drew unwanted attention to them during labor and so preferred to stay at home.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that community mobilization interventions may reduce neonatal mortality and that maternity waiting rooms may reduce stillbirths. Importantly, they also highlight how referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. However, because the studies included in this systematic review included multiple interventions designed to reduce delays at several stages of the referral process, it is not possible to disentangle the contribution of each component of the intervention. Moreover, it is impossible at present to determine why (or even if) any of the interventions reduced maternal mortality. Thus, the researchers conclude, improved monitoring of interventions and better evaluation of outcomes is essential to inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, and more studies are needed to improve understanding of how referral interventions work.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF./UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about loss in childbirth; the non-governmental health development organization AMREF provides personal stories about maternal health in Africa
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264
PMCID: PMC3393680  PMID: 22807658
16.  Efficacy of Short-Course AZT Plus 3TC to Reduce Nevirapine Resistance in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission: A Randomized Clinical Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(10):e1000172.
Neil Martinson and colleagues report a randomized trial of adding short-course zidovudine+lamivudine to reduce drug resistance from single-dose nevirapine used to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Background
Single-dose nevirapine (sdNVP)—which prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV—selects non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) resistance mutations in the majority of women and HIV-infected infants receiving it. This open-label, randomised trial examined the efficacy of short-course zidovudine (AZT) and lamivudine (3TC) with sdNVP in reducing NNRTI resistance in mothers, and as a secondary objective, in infants, in a setting where sdNVP was standard-of-care.
Methods and Findings
sdNVP alone, administered at the onset of labour and to the infant, was compared to sdNVP with AZT plus 3TC, given as combivir (CBV) for 4 (NVP/CBV4) or 7 (NVP/CBV7) days, initiated simultaneously with sdNVP in labour; their newborns received the same regimens. Women were randomised 1∶1∶1. HIV-1 resistance was assessed by population sequencing at: baseline, 2, and 6 wk after birth. An unplanned interim analysis resulted in early stopping of the sdNVP arm. 406 pregnant women were randomised and took study medication (sdNVP 74, NVP/CBV4 164, and NVP/CBV7 168). HIV-1 resistance mutations emerged in 59.2%, 11.7%, and 7.3% of women in the sdNVP, NVP/CBV4, and NVP/CBV7 arms by 6 wk postpartum; differences between NVP-only and both NVP/CBV arms were significant (p<0.0001), but the difference between NVP/CBV4 and NVP/CBV7 was not (p = 0.27). Estimated efficacy comparing combined CBV arms with sdNVP was 85.6%. Similar resistance reductions were seen in infants who were HIV-infected by their 6-wk visit.
Conclusions
A short course of AZT plus 3TC, supplementing maternal and infant sdNVP, reduces emergent NNRTI resistance mutations in both mothers and their infants. However, this trial was not powered to detect small differences between the CBV arms.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT 00144183
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, about 33 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV can be treated with combination antiretroviral therapy (ART), commonly three individual antiretroviral drugs that together efficiently suppress the replication of the virus. HIV infection of a child by an HIV-positive mother during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). In 2007, an estimated 420,000 children were newly infected with HIV, the majority through MTCT. Most of these mothers and children live in sub-Saharan Africa where child and maternal mortality rates are high and mortality in HIV-infected children is extremely high. MTCT is preventable and there is a global commitment, agreed at the UN General Assembly Session on HIV/AIDS in 2001, to reduce the proportion of infants infected with HIV by 50% by 2010.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many resource-limited settings, MTCT is prevented by giving a single dose of nevirapine (an antiretroviral drug which has a long duration in the body and protects the fetus during labor and delivery only) to HIV-infected women in labor and also to a baby within 72 hours of birth. However, nevirapine, a non-nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), which suppresses the replication of the virus, is associated with increased resistance of HIV, in mother and child, to NNRTI. This resistance reduces the effectiveness of future treatments of both mother and child with combination ART that includes an NNRTI; such regimens are the mainstay for long-term treatment of HIV in developing countries. The researchers investigated whether giving other antiretroviral drugs with nevirapine, during labor and delivery, to both mother and her newborn reduced the chances of them developing resistance to NNRTIs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers selected 406 HIV-positive pregnant women for study across five sites in South Africa between February 2003 and May 2007. The women and their newborn babies were randomly assigned to receive, either (i) a single dose of nevirapine, (ii) a single dose of nevirapine plus combivir (zidovudine combined with lamivudine) for four days, or (iii) a single dose of nevirapine plus combivir for seven days. At two days, two weeks, and six weeks after delivery blood was collected from mothers and babies. HIV virus from blood samples was analyzed for resistance mutations, and mothers and children with resistance mutations were monitored for a further 96 weeks until no resistance was detected or combination ART (also called “HAART”) was started. Enrollment into the single-dose nevirapine arm was stopped early because a very high rate of NNRTI resistance mutations was found and other investigators reported long-term bad consequences of NNRTI-resistance on subsequent ART. The two nevirapine plus combivir arms were continued. The researchers found that selection of resistance mutations by single-dose nevirapine was reduced in mother and child by the addition of zidovudine and lamivudine for a short period; resistance mutations were found in 59.2% of women who got nevirapine only but only 11.7%, and 7.3% of women treated nevirapine plus four days combivir, and nevirapine plus seven days combivir respectively. A reduction was also seen in new NNRTI resistant mutations in the HIV-infected infants that received combivir. The study did not have enough women to show that there was a real difference between the resistance in the four-day and seven-day combivir regimens.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that a short-course treatment of zidovudine and lamivudine in addition to a single dose of nevirapine during labor and birth reduces the selection of NNRTI resistance mutations in both mother and child. The drug regimens appeared safe, and easy to provide and adhere to. Preliminary results from this study contributed to a change in clinical practice for the care of pregnant women with HIV; in 2004 the World Health Organisation guidelines introduced a short course of combivir with nevirapine for the management of pregnant HIV-infected women. However, the study had some limitations. It used HIV-positive women who were mainly infected with a subtype of HIV called HIV-1 clade C and who had a lot of virus in their blood. NNRTI resistance after treatment with nevirapine is more common in clade C than in others and this study does not address the effect of these combinations for preventing NNRTI resistance in other HIV subtypes. Also, World Health Organization, national, and international guidelines recommend combination ART during pregnancy, as it decreases HIV transmission from mother to child in the uterus to <2% in resource-limited settings. Although long-term combination treatment may not be available in all locations, this study does not tell us how the short-term combinations during and after delivery tested would compare to longer-term combinations given to pregnant women in reducing both HIV transmission and HIV drug resistance.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000172.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Lehman et al.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information for HIV treatment and prevention
MedlinePlus provides extensive information on symptoms and treatment for HIV/AIDS as well as access to related clinical trials and medical literature
aidsmap, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization provides information on HIV and supporting those living with HIV
The World Health Organization gives information on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000172
PMCID: PMC2760761  PMID: 19859531
17.  Induction of Labor versus Expectant Management in Women with Preterm Prelabor Rupture of Membranes between 34 and 37 Weeks: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(4):e1001208.
In a randomized controlled trial David van der Ham and colleagues investigate induction of labor versus expectant management for women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes.
Background
At present, there is insufficient evidence to guide appropriate management of women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes (PPROM) near term.
Methods and Findings
We conducted an open-label randomized controlled trial in 60 hospitals in The Netherlands, which included non-laboring women with >24 h of PPROM between 34+0 and 37+0 wk of gestation. Participants were randomly allocated in a 1∶1 ratio to induction of labor (IoL) or expectant management (EM) using block randomization. The main outcome was neonatal sepsis. Secondary outcomes included mode of delivery, respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), and chorioamnionitis. Patients and caregivers were not blinded to randomization status. We updated a prior meta-analysis on the effect of both interventions on neonatal sepsis, RDS, and cesarean section rate.
From 1 January 2007 to 9 September 2009, 776 patients in 60 hospitals were eligible for the study, of which 536 patients were randomized. Four patients were excluded after randomization. We allocated 266 women (268 neonates) to IoL and 266 women (270 neonates) to EM. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven (2.6%) newborns of women in the IoL group and in 11 (4.1%) neonates in the EM group (relative risk [RR] 0.64; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.25 to 1.6). RDS was seen in 21 (7.8%, IoL) versus 17 neonates (6.3%, EM) (RR 1.3; 95% CI 0.67 to 2.3), and a cesarean section was performed in 36 (13%, IoL) versus 37 (14%, EM) women (RR 0.98; 95% CI 0.64 to 1.50). The risk for chorioamnionitis was reduced in the IoL group. No serious adverse events were reported.
Updating an existing meta-analysis with our trial results (the only eligible trial for the update) indicated RRs of 1.06 (95% CI 0.64 to 1.76) for neonatal sepsis (eight trials, 1,230 neonates) and 1.27 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.65) for cesarean section (eight trials, 1,222 women) for IoL compared with EM.
Conclusions
In women whose pregnancy is complicated by late PPROM, neither our trial nor the updated meta-analysis indicates that IoL substantially improves pregnancy outcomes compared with EM.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN29313500
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but in industrialized countries, 5%–10% of babies are born before 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb). Premature birth is a major cause of infant death in many developed countries, and preterm babies can also have short- and/or long-term health problems such as breathing problems, increased susceptibility to life-threatening infections, and learning and developmental disabilities. There are many reasons why some babies are born prematurely, but preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes (PPROM) accounts for 30%–40% of preterm deliveries. Inside the womb, the baby is held in a fluid-filled bag called the amniotic sac. The amniotic fluid cushions the baby, helps some of its organs develop, and protects both mother and baby from infection. The membranes that form the sac usually break at the start of labor (“water breaking”), but in PPROM, the membranes break before the baby is fully grown. PPROM increases the mother's risk of a womb infection called chorioamnionitis and the baby's risk of neonatal sepsis (blood infection), and can trigger early labor.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is currently no consensus on how to manage women whose membranes rupture between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. Some guidelines recommend immediate induction of labor if PPROM occurs at or beyond 34 weeks' gestation. Others recommend that labor not be induced unless the mother develops signs of infection such as a high temperature or has not delivered her baby spontaneously by 37 weeks' gestation (expectant management). Before 34 weeks' gestation, expectant management is generally recommended. In this randomized controlled trial, the researchers compare the effects of induction of labor and of expectant management on the rate of neonatal sepsis (the proportion of babies that develop neonatal sepsis; the trial's primary outcome) and on secondary outcomes such as the rates of neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), cesarean section (surgical delivery), and chorioamnionitis in women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. The researchers also undertake a meta-analysis of published trials on the effect of both interventions on pregnancy outcomes. A randomized controlled trial compares the effects of different interventions in groups of individuals chosen through the play of chance; meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several trials.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the PPROM Expectant Management versus Induction of Labor (PRROMEXIL) trial, 532 non-laboring women with PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation were randomly assigned to either immediate induction of labor or expectant management. Neonatal sepsis occurred in seven babies born to women in the induction of labor group and in 11 babies born to women in the expectant management group. This difference was not statistically significant. That is, it could have happened by chance. Similarly, although more babies born to women in the induction of labor group than in the expectant management group developed RDS (21 and 17 babies, respectively), this difference was not significant. Cesarean section rates were similar in both intervention groups, but the risk of chorioamnionitis was slightly reduced in the induction of labor group compared to the expectant management group. Finally, the researchers' meta-analysis (which included these new results) found no significant differences in the risk of neonatal sepsis, RDS, or cesarean section associated with the two interventions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, compared to expectant management, induction of labor did not reduce the incidence of neonatal sepsis in pregnancies complicated by PPROM between 34 and 37 weeks' gestation. However, because fewer babies than expected born to the women in the expectant management group developed neonatal sepsis, this trial was underpowered. That is, too few women were enrolled in the trial to enable the detection of a small difference between the interventions in the neonatal sepsis rate. These findings also show that induction of labor did not substantially affect most of the secondary outcomes measured by the researchers. Given these results and those of their meta-analysis, the researchers conclude that, in women whose pregnancy is complicated by PPROM late in pregnancy, induction of labor does not substantially improve the outcome for either the woman or her baby compared to expectant management.
Additional Information
Please access these web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001208.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish); its News Moms Need blog contains a post on PPROM
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines on the diagnosis, investigation, and management of PPROM are available (in English and Russian)
Information about the PPROMEXIL trial is available
Personal stories about PPROM are available on the Austprem web site, a non-profit organization that provides information about prematurity and support for parents of premature babies in Australia
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001208
PMCID: PMC3335867  PMID: 22545024
18.  Cost-Effectiveness of Rapid Syphilis Screening in Prenatal HIV Testing Programs in Haiti 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e183.
Background
New rapid syphilis tests permit simple and immediate diagnosis and treatment at a single clinic visit. We compared the cost-effectiveness, projected health outcomes, and annual cost of screening pregnant women using a rapid syphilis test as part of scaled-up prenatal testing to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in Haiti.
Methods and Findings
A decision analytic model simulated health outcomes and costs separately for pregnant women in rural and urban areas. We compared syphilis syndromic surveillance (rural standard of care), rapid plasma reagin test with results and treatment at 1-wk follow-up (urban standard of care), and a new rapid test with immediate results and treatment. Test performance data were from a World Health Organization–Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases field trial conducted at the GHESKIO Center Groupe Haitien d'Etude du Sarcome de Kaposi et des Infections Opportunistes in Port-au-Prince. Health outcomes were projected using historical data on prenatal syphilis treatment efficacy and included disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) of newborns, congenital syphilis cases, neonatal deaths, and stillbirths. Cost-effectiveness ratios are in US dollars/DALY from a societal perspective; annual costs are in US dollars from a payer perspective. Rapid testing with immediate treatment has a cost-effectiveness ratio of $6.83/DALY in rural settings and $9.95/DALY in urban settings. Results are sensitive to regional syphilis prevalence, rapid test sensitivity, and the return rate for follow-up visits. Integrating rapid syphilis testing into a scaled-up national HIV testing and prenatal care program would prevent 1,125 congenital syphilis cases and 1,223 stillbirths or neonatal deaths annually at a cost of $525,000.
Conclusions
In Haiti, integrating a new rapid syphilis test into prenatal care and HIV testing would prevent congenital syphilis cases and stillbirths, and is cost-effective. A similar approach may be beneficial in other resource-poor countries that are scaling up prenatal HIV testing.
Analyzing data from Haiti, Bruce Schackman and colleagues report that scale-up of prenatal HIV testing programs provides a cost-effective opportunity to prevent congenital syphilis through rapid testing.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Congenital syphilis (syphilis that is passed on from a woman infected with the disease to her unborn baby) is a major preventable public health problem. Around half of all pregnancies among women infected with syphilis result in stillbirth or death of the baby shortly after birth. However, it should be possible to reduce the health burden of congenital syphilis if infections among pregnant women could be quickly and accurately diagnosed. In resource-poor countries, many syphilis infections go undiagnosed, because the tests that are normally used involve sending samples away to a laboratory for processing. This means that the diagnosis can only be confirmed, and treatment started, at the next available visit. As a result, there is a delay in starting antibiotic treatment, and some women may never receive their intended treatment at all if they cannot return for their follow-up visit. However, new tests are available that don't involve cold storage of reagents or electrical equipment, and these can be used to give an immediate result about syphilis infection even in rural or resource-poor settings. Currently, global initiatives are underway to ensure many more pregnant women are tested for HIV and to reduce the risk of HIV being passed on from a woman to her baby. These initiatives could provide an important opportunity for carrying out widespread immediate screening for syphilis during pregnancy as well. Such screening might then help reduce infant deaths substantially.
Why Was This Study Done?
Field trials evaluating rapid syphilis tests have already been carried out by the World Health Organization's Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases. One such trial, carried out in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, evaluated the success of three different rapid syphilis tests as compared to two “gold standard” tests (older tests that are generally considered reliable, but which don't give an immediate result). These researchers wanted to use data from these trials to compare costs and predicted health outcomes of including different types of syphilis screening as part of scaled-up prenatal care. Specifically, the researchers wanted to find out whether including rapid syphilis testing as part of universal prenatal care would be cost-effective and whether it would reduce the rate of stillbirths and congenital syphilis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
This research was based on data from the field trials previously carried out in Haiti. The data from these trials were used to create a model comparing three different strategies for screening pregnant women for syphilis infections. The three strategies were as follows: checking for the symptoms of syphilis (assumed to be the standard of care in rural areas); standard testing for antibody response to the syphilis bacterium, after which treatment can be provided at follow-up a week later (assumed to be the standard of care in urban areas); and, finally, rapid testing that gives an immediate result. For each strategy, the researchers predicted what the health outcomes would be. These outcomes are summarized in “disability-adjusted life years” (DALYs) that reflect the number of years of healthy life lost due to congenital syphilis among newborn babies, the number of stillbirths, and the number of neonatal deaths. Cost-effectiveness of each strategy was also worked out by dividing the additional costs of testing and treatment for each strategy by the number of DALYs avoided using that screening method compared to the next most expensive alternative. Under the model, urban and rural settings were looked at separately. Immediate testing was more expensive than either standard testing or checking for symptoms, but emerged as more cost-effective than standard testing in rural settings; the immediate test would cost an additional $7–$10 per disability-adjusted life year compared to the current rural or urban standard of care. The researchers predicted that if immediate syphilis testing were provided to all pregnant women in Haiti who currently have access to prenatal care, over 1,000 congenital syphilis cases would be avoided, along with over 1,000 stillbirths and neonatal deaths, at a yearly cost of $525,000.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This model suggests that including rapid syphilis testing as part of current global initiatives for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV could substantially reduce infant deaths. The strategy is also likely to be cost-effective.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040183.
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on congenital syphilis
Information from the World Health Organization about congenital syphilis, including information about screening programs and new screening tests
A report is also available from the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases regarding rapid syphilis tests
AVERT, an international AIDS charity, provides information about preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040183
PMCID: PMC1880854  PMID: 17535105
19.  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
20.  Fetal Growth and Risk of Stillbirth: A Population-Based Case–Control Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001633.
Radek Bukowski and colleagues conducted a case control study in 59 US hospitals to determine the relationship between fetal growth and stillbirth, and find that both restrictive and excessive growth could play a role.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Stillbirth is strongly related to impaired fetal growth. However, the relationship between fetal growth and stillbirth is difficult to determine because of uncertainty in the timing of death and confounding characteristics affecting normal fetal growth.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based case–control study of all stillbirths and a representative sample of live births in 59 hospitals in five geographic areas in the US. Fetal growth abnormalities were categorized as small for gestational age (SGA) (<10th percentile) or large for gestational age (LGA) (>90th percentile) at death (stillbirth) or delivery (live birth) using population, ultrasound, and individualized norms. Gestational age at death was determined using an algorithm that considered the time-of-death interval, postmortem examination, and reliability of the gestational age estimate. Data were weighted to account for the sampling design and differential participation rates in various subgroups. Among 527 singleton stillbirths and 1,821 singleton live births studied, stillbirth was associated with SGA based on population, ultrasound, and individualized norms (odds ratio [OR] [95% CI]: 3.0 [2.2 to 4.0]; 4.7 [3.7 to 5.9]; 4.6 [3.6 to 5.9], respectively). LGA was also associated with increased risk of stillbirth using ultrasound and individualized norms (OR [95% CI]: 3.5 [2.4 to 5.0]; 2.3 [1.7 to 3.1], respectively), but not population norms (OR [95% CI]: 0.6 [0.4 to 1.0]). The associations were stronger with more severe SGA and LGA (<5th and >95th percentile). Analyses adjusted for stillbirth risk factors, subset analyses excluding potential confounders, and analyses in preterm and term pregnancies showed similar patterns of association. In this study 70% of cases and 63% of controls agreed to participate. Analysis weights accounted for differences between consenting and non-consenting women. Some of the characteristics used for individualized fetal growth estimates were missing and were replaced with reference values. However, a sensitivity analysis using individualized norms based on the subset of stillbirths and live births with non-missing variables showed similar findings.
Conclusions
Stillbirth is associated with both growth restriction and excessive fetal growth. These findings suggest that, contrary to current practices and recommendations, stillbirth prevention strategies should focus on both severe SGA and severe LGA pregnancies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Pregnancy is usually a happy time, when the parents-to-be anticipate the arrival of a new baby. But, sadly, about 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage—the early loss of a fetus (developing baby) that is unable to survive independently. Other pregnancies end in stillbirth—fetal death after 20 weeks of pregnancy (in the US; after 24 weeks in the UK). Stillbirths, like miscarriages, are common. In the US, for example, one in every 160 pregnancies ends in stillbirth. How women discover that their unborn baby has died varies. Some women simply know something is wrong and go to hospital to have their fears confirmed. Others find out when a routine check-up detects no fetal heartbeat. Most women give birth naturally after their baby has died, but if the mother's health is at risk, labor may be induced. Common causes of stillbirth include birth defects and infections. Risk factors for stillbirth include being overweight and smoking during pregnancy.
Why Was This Study Done?
Stillbirths are often associated with having a “small for gestational age” (SGA) fetus. Gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother's womb. Gestational age is estimated from the date of the woman's last menstrual period and/or from ultrasound scans. An SGA fetus is lighter than expected for its age based on observed distributions (norms) of fetal weights for gestational age. Although stillbirth is clearly associated with impaired fetal growth, the exact relationship between fetal growth and stillbirth remains unclear for two reasons. First, studies investigating this relationship have used gestational age at delivery rather than gestational age at death as an estimate of fetal age, which overestimates the gestational age of stillbirths and leads to errors in estimates of the proportions of SGA and “large for gestational age” (LGA) stillbirths. Second, many characteristics that affect normal fetal growth are also associated with the risk of stillbirth, and this has not been allowed for in previous studies. In this population-based case–control study, the researchers investigate the fetal growth abnormalities associated with stillbirth using a new approach to estimate gestational age and accounting for the effect of characteristics that affect both fetal growth and stillbirth. A population-based case–control study compares the characteristics of patients with a condition in a population with those of unaffected people in the same population.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers investigated all the stillbirths and a sample of live births that occurred over 2.5 years at 59 hospitals in five US regions. They used a formula developed by the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network to calculate the gestational age at death of the stillbirths. They categorized fetuses as SGA if they had a weight for gestational age within the bottom 10% (below the 10th percentile) of the population and as LGA if they had a weight for gestational age above the 90th percentile at death (stillbirth) or delivery (live birth) using population, ultrasound, and individualized norms of fetal weight for gestational age. Population norms incorporate weights for gestational age from normal pregnancies and from pregnancies complicated by growth abnormalities, whereas the other two norms include weights for gestational age from normal pregnancies only. Having an SGA fetus was associated with a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of stillbirth compared to having a fetus with “appropriate” weight for gestational age based on all three norms. LGA was associated with an increased risk of stillbirth based on the ultrasound and individualized norms but not the population norms. Being more severely SGA or LGA (below the 5th percentile or above the 95th percentile) was associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, when the time of death is accounted for and norms for weight for gestational age only from uncomplicated pregnancies are used, stillbirth is associated with both restricted and excessive fetal growth. Overall, abnormal fetal growth was identified in 25% of stillbirths using population norms and in about 50% of stillbirths using ultrasound or individualized norms. Although the accuracy of these findings is likely to be affected by aspects of the study design, these findings suggest that, contrary to current practices, strategies designed to prevent stillbirth should focus on identifying both severely SGA and severely LGA fetuses and should use norms for the calculation of weight for gestational age based on normal pregnancies only. Such an approach has the potential to identify almost half of the pregnancies likely to result in stillbirth.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001633.
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on stillbirth
Tommy's, a UK nonprofit organization that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth, and miscarriage and provides information for parents-to-be, also provides information on stillbirth (including personal stories)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about stillbirth (including a video about dealing with grief after a stillbirth)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about stillbirth (in English and Spanish)
Information about the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001633
PMCID: PMC3995658  PMID: 24755550
21.  Antenatal Syphilis Screening Using Point-of-Care Testing in Sub-Saharan African Countries: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001545.
Yukari Manabe and colleagues evaluate the cost-effectiveness and budget impact of antenatal syphilis screening for 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and estimate the impact of universal screening on averted stillbirths, neonatal deaths, congenital syphilis, and DALYs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Untreated syphilis in pregnancy is associated with adverse clinical outcomes for the infant. Most syphilis infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where coverage of antenatal screening for syphilis is inadequate. Recently introduced point-of-care syphilis tests have high accuracy and demonstrate potential to increase coverage of antenatal screening. However, country-specific cost-effectiveness data for these tests are limited. The objective of this analysis was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness and budget impact of antenatal syphilis screening for 43 countries in SSA and estimate the impact of universal screening on stillbirths, neonatal deaths, congenital syphilis, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) averted.
Methods and Findings
The decision analytic model reflected the perspective of the national health care system and was based on the sensitivity (86%) and specificity (99%) reported for the immunochromatographic strip (ICS) test. Clinical outcomes of infants born to syphilis-infected mothers on the end points of stillbirth, neonatal death, and congenital syphilis were obtained from published sources. Treatment was assumed to consist of three injections of benzathine penicillin. Country-specific inputs included the antenatal prevalence of syphilis, annual number of live births, proportion of women with at least one antenatal care visit, per capita gross national income, and estimated hourly nurse wages. In all 43 sub-Saharan African countries analyzed, syphilis screening is highly cost-effective, with an average cost/DALY averted of US$11 (range: US$2–US$48). Screening remains highly cost-effective even if the average prevalence falls from the current rate of 3.1% (range: 0.6%–14.0%) to 0.038% (range: 0.002%–0.113%). Universal antenatal screening of pregnant women in clinics may reduce the annual number of stillbirths by up to 64,000, neonatal deaths by up to 25,000, and annual incidence of congenital syphilis by up to 32,000, and avert up to 2.6 million DALYs at an estimated annual direct medical cost of US$20.8 million.
Conclusions
Use of ICS tests for antenatal syphilis screening is highly cost-effective in SSA. Substantial reduction in DALYs can be achieved at a relatively modest budget impact. In SSA, antenatal programs should expand access to syphilis screening using the ICS test.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. In many countries, the screening and treatment program for syphilis in pregnancy is inadequate, leading to babies being affected. It is estimated that between 2.5% and 17% of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with syphilis; recent estimates suggest that more than 535,000 pregnancies occur in women with active syphilis each year. Maternal syphilis in pregnancy has been estimated to cause approximately half a million adverse outcomes in babies, including stillbirths, neonatal deaths, preterm or low-birth-weight babies, and congenital infections. If a pregnant woman is tested, and given penicillin if positive, then many of these harmful outcomes can be avoided. The best time to screen and treat is in the first half of pregnancy.
Until recently, tests for syphilis were done in a laboratory as an enzyme immunoassay, requiring technical staff. Recently, rapid tests for syphilis became available for use at the point of care. There are considerable advantages to this approach: the tests can be undertaken using a finger prick to obtain a small amount of blood, and require minimal staff training and no specialist laboratory equipment. A result can be given within minutes, avoiding the need for a return visit in settings where antenatal care is infrequent.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the advantages to the mother and baby of testing seem clear, the cost-effectiveness of a screening and treatment program using rapid point-of-care tests has not previously been assessed for most sub-Saharan African countries. The program has the greatest potential value in settings where syphilis is common. In local guidelines, testing is often recommended, but uncertainty over the costs and technical requirements has meant that antenatal syphilis screening has not been comprehensively introduced. The aim of this study was to assess whether antenatal syphilis screening was cost-effective for 43 countries in sub-Saharan Africa by estimating the extent of infant mortality and disability that could be prevented if maternal syphilis was diagnosed and treated.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers created a model that allowed them to determine the cost-effectiveness of antenatal syphilis screening and treatment. They included many factors including the performance of the test, how common syphilis is in each country, the number of births, the likelihood of harmful outcomes, the effectiveness of penicillin therapy, the cost of an antenatal visit, and the cost of the test and the penicillin treatment, if positive. Then they calculated how many deaths and how much disability could be prevented by screening and treatment. The results were expressed in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which give the number of years affected by ill health, disability, or early death. The study found that screening was highly cost-effective, with each DALY prevented on average costing only US$11.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Across sub-Saharan Africa, only about 40% of women are screened for syphilis during one of their antenatal care visits. These findings suggest that it would be an efficient use of health care resources to scale up antenatal screening programs for syphilis using the rapid point-of-care test. Comparing these results to those for other health care interventions in resource-limited settings suggests that screening pregnant women for syphilis in sub-Saharan Africa could achieve a substantial improvement in public health at relatively little cost. The researchers propose that combining HIV and syphilis tests into one antenatal screening package could be an efficient way of introducing a care package into settings where uptake is currently limited.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001545.
The World Health Organization provides information on syphilis in pregnant women
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has information on efforts to reduce congenital syphilis and a rapid syphilis test toolkit
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's STD Curriculum includes materials on syphilis
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001545
PMCID: PMC3818163  PMID: 24223524
22.  Intermittent Preventive Treatment of Malaria in Pregnancy with Mefloquine in HIV-Negative Women: A Multicentre Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001733.
Clara Menéndez and colleagues conducted an open-label randomized controlled trial in HIV-negative pregnant women in Benin, Gabon, Mozambique, and Tanzania to evaluate the safety and efficacy of mefloquine compared to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for intermittent preventative therapy for malaria.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) is recommended by WHO to prevent malaria in African pregnant women. The spread of SP parasite resistance has raised concerns regarding long-term use for IPT. Mefloquine (MQ) is the most promising of available alternatives to SP based on safety profile, long half-life, and high efficacy in Africa. We evaluated the safety and efficacy of MQ for IPTp compared to those of SP in HIV-negative women.
Methods and Findings
A total of 4,749 pregnant women were enrolled in an open-label randomized clinical trial conducted in Benin, Gabon, Mozambique, and Tanzania comparing two-dose MQ or SP for IPTp and MQ tolerability of two different regimens. The study arms were: (1) SP, (2) single dose MQ (15 mg/kg), and (3) split-dose MQ in the context of long lasting insecticide treated nets. There was no difference on low birth weight prevalence (primary study outcome) between groups (360/2,778 [13.0%]) for MQ group and 177/1,398 (12.7%) for SP group; risk ratio [RR], 1.02 (95% CI 0.86–1.22; p = 0.80 in the ITT analysis). Women receiving MQ had reduced risks of parasitemia (63/1,372 [4.6%] in the SP group and 88/2,737 [3.2%] in the MQ group; RR, 0.70 [95% CI 0.51–0.96]; p = 0.03) and anemia at delivery (609/1,380 [44.1%] in the SP group and 1,110/2743 [40.5%] in the MQ group; RR, 0.92 [95% CI 0.85–0.99]; p = 0.03), and reduced incidence of clinical malaria (96/551.8 malaria episodes person/year [PYAR] in the SP group and 130/1,103.2 episodes PYAR in the MQ group; RR, 0.67 [95% CI 0.52–0.88]; p = 0.004) and all-cause outpatient attendances during pregnancy (850/557.8 outpatients visits PYAR in the SP group and 1,480/1,110.1 visits PYAR in the MQ group; RR, 0.86 [0.78–0.95]; p = 0.003). There were no differences in the prevalence of placental infection and adverse pregnancy outcomes between groups. Tolerability was poorer in the two MQ groups compared to SP. The most frequently reported related adverse events were dizziness (ranging from 33.9% to 35.5% after dose 1; and 16.0% to 20.8% after dose 2) and vomiting (30.2% to 31.7%, after dose 1 and 15.3% to 17.4% after dose 2) with similar proportions in the full and split MQ arms. The open-label design is a limitation of the study that affects mainly the safety assessment.
Conclusions
Women taking MQ IPTp (15 mg/kg) in the context of long lasting insecticide treated nets had similar prevalence rates of low birth weight as those taking SP IPTp. MQ recipients had less clinical malaria than SP recipients, and the pregnancy outcomes and safety profile were similar. MQ had poorer tolerability even when splitting the dose over two days. These results do not support a change in the current IPTp policy.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT 00811421; Pan African Clinical Trials Registry PACTR 2010020001429343
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half the world's population is at risk of malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa but pregnant women and their unborn children living in Africa are also very vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia (reduced red blood cell numbers), stillbirths, and pre-term and low-birthweight babies, and is responsible for the deaths of many African babies and women. To prevent this loss of life, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a three-pronged approach—the delivery to pregnant women of the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) at each scheduled antenatal care visit given at least one month apart (intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy; IPTp), the use of insecticide treated bed nets to protect pregnant women from the bites of infected mosquitoes, and effective case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
IPTp with SP reduces the delivery of low-birth-weight babies and neonatal deaths but malaria parasites are becoming resistant to SP. Thus, other antimalarial drugs need to be evaluated for use in IPTp. Suitable drugs need to remain in the body for a long time to maximize their prophylactic (preventative) effect, they need to be given as a single dose at antenatal clinic visits to ensure compliance, and they must not harm the unborn child. In this open-label, randomized controlled trial (RCT), the researchers compare the efficacy and safety of IPTp with SP and mefloquine (MQ, an antimalarial drug that matches these criteria) in HIV-negative women living in Africa. The study also compares the tolerability of two MQ regimens. RCTs compare outcomes in groups of people chosen to receive different interventions through the play of chance; in open-label RCTs, both the researchers and the study participants know which treatment is being administered. IPTp with SP is only recommended for HIV-negative women because SP interacts with cotrimoxazole, which is routinely given to HIV-positive individuals to prevent infections.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assigned 4,749 pregnant women in Benin, Gabon, Mozambique, and Tanzania to one of three study groups. Participants in the SP and MQ groups received two doses of SP or MQ, respectively, administered at least one month apart. Participants in the split-dose MQ group received each MQ dose as half doses given on consecutive days. The prevalence of low-birth-weight deliveries (the study's primary outcome; the prevalence of a condition is the proportion of a population with that condition) was similar in the SP group and in the combined MQ groups. However, compared to women who received SP, women who received MQ had a lower risk of parasitemia (parasites in the blood), a lower risk of anemia at delivery, fewer episodes of clinical malaria, and fewer outpatient attendances. The prevalence of placental infection with malaria parasites and of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth was similar in all the study groups. Finally, the tolerability of IPTp was poorer in the two MQ intervention groups than in the SP group, but similar proportions of adverse events (mainly dizziness and vomiting) were reported for the two MQ dosing regimens.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that HIV-negative African women taking MQ for IPTp had a similar risk of a low-birth-weight delivery (the study's primary outcome) and lower risk of malaria illness during pregnancy than women taking SP for IPTp. Because the study did not have a no-IPTp arm (for ethical reasons), these findings provide no information about the efficacy or safety or either MQ or SP per se; these findings only indicate that MQ is no more efficacious than SP in the prevention of low-birth-weight babies. Moreover, because the study was open-label, the accuracy of the findings related to the tolerability and safety of MQ compared to SP may be limited because of biases in the assessment of safety outcomes. Given that the MQ dose used here for IPTp was associated with poorer tolerability than that of SP, these findings do not support the use of MQ instead of SP for IPTp.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001733.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by Raquel González and colleagues examines IPTp-MQ in HIV-infected women receiving cotrimoxazole prophylaxis
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Richard Steketee.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on malaria in pregnancy; information on IPTp and the updated WHO policy recommendation on IPTp with SP are available; the 2013 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001733
PMCID: PMC4172436  PMID: 25247709
23.  Vitamin A and carotenoids during pregnancy and maternal, neonatal and infant health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis 
Paediatric and perinatal epidemiology  2012;26(0 1):10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01284.x.
Summary
Vitamin A (VA) deficiency during pregnancy is common in low income countries and a growing number of intervention trials have examined the effects of supplementation during pregnancy on maternal, perinatal, and infant health outcomes.
We systematically reviewed the literature to identify trials isolating the effects of VA or carotenoid supplementation during pregnancy on maternal, fetal, neonatal and early infant health outcomes. Meta-analysis was used to pool effect estimates for outcomes with more than one comparable study. We used GRADE criteria to assess the quality of individual studies and the level of evidence available for each outcome.
We identified 23 eligible trials of which 17 had suitable quality for inclusion in meta-analyses. VA or beta-carotene (βC) supplementation during pregnancy did not have a significant overall effect on birthweight indicators, preterm birth, stillbirth, miscarriage, or fetal loss. Among HIV-positive women, supplementation was protective against low birthweight (<2.5 kg), RR=0.79, [95% CI 0.64, 0.99], but no significant effects on preterm delivery or small-for-gestational age were observed. Pooled analysis of the results of three large randomized trials found no effects of VA supplementation on neonatal/infant mortality, or pregnancy-related maternal mortality, random effects RR=0.86, [0.60, 1.24] although high heterogeneity was observed in the maternal mortality estimate[I2=74%, p=0.02]. VA supplementation during pregnancy was found to improve hemoglobin levels and reduce anemia risk (<11.0 g/dL) during pregnancy random effects RR=0.81 [0.69, 0.94], also with high heterogeneity (I2=52%, p=0.04). We found no effect of VA/βC supplementation on mother-to-child HIV transmission in pooled analysis, although some evidence suggests that it may increase transmission.
There is little consistent evidence of benefit of maternal supplementation with VA or βC during pregnancy on maternal or infant mortality. While there may be beneficial effects for certain outcomes, there may also be potential for harm through increased HIV transmission in some populations.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01284.x
PMCID: PMC3843354  PMID: 22742601
24.  The Association of Factor V Leiden and Prothrombin Gene Mutation and Placenta-Mediated Pregnancy Complications: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000292.
Marc Rodger and colleagues report the results of their systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies that estimated the association of maternal factor V Leiden and prothrombin gene mutation carrier status and placenta-mediated pregnancy complications.
Background
Factor V Leiden (FVL) and prothrombin gene mutation (PGM) are common inherited thrombophilias. Retrospective studies variably suggest a link between maternal FVL/PGM and placenta-mediated pregnancy complications including pregnancy loss, small for gestational age, pre-eclampsia and placental abruption. Prospective cohort studies provide a superior methodologic design but require larger sample sizes to detect important effects. We undertook a systematic review and a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies to estimate the association of maternal FVL or PGM carrier status and placenta-mediated pregnancy complications.
Methods and Findings
A comprehensive search strategy was run in Medline and Embase. Inclusion criteria were: (1) prospective cohort design; (2) clearly defined outcomes including one of the following: pregnancy loss, small for gestational age, pre-eclampsia or placental abruption; (3) maternal FVL or PGM carrier status; (4) sufficient data for calculation of odds ratios (ORs). We identified 322 titles, reviewed 30 articles for inclusion and exclusion criteria, and included ten studies in the meta-analysis. The odds of pregnancy loss in women with FVL (absolute risk 4.2%) was 52% higher (OR = 1.52, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.06–2.19) as compared with women without FVL (absolute risk 3.2%). There was no significant association between FVL and pre-eclampsia (OR = 1.23, 95% CI 0.89–1.70) or between FVL and SGA (OR = 1.0, 95% CI 0.80–1.25). PGM was not associated with pre-eclampsia (OR = 1.25, 95% CI 0.79–1.99) or SGA (OR 1.25, 95% CI 0.92–1.70).
Conclusions
Women with FVL appear to be at a small absolute increased risk of late pregnancy loss. Women with FVL and PGM appear not to be at increased risk of pre-eclampsia or birth of SGA infants.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The death of a baby at any stage of pregnancy is heartbreaking and, sadly, a quarter of women lose their baby during pregnancy or birth. A pregnancy can go wrong for many reasons but complications that are caused by problems with the placenta affect more than one in 20 pregnancies. The placenta is the organ that links the mother to her baby. It is full of blood vessels that transfer oxygen and nutrients from the mother to her baby and that take carbon dioxide and waste products away from the baby. If the placenta does not circulate blood efficiently between the mother and baby (placental insufficiency), the result can be pregnancy loss (spontaneous miscarriage or still birth), pre-eclampsia (a sudden rise in blood pressure in late pregnancy that is life-threatening for both mother and baby), a small for gestational age pregnancy (the baby does not grow properly during pregnancy), or placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the wall of the womb, a condition that deprives the baby of oxygen and nutrients and can cause severe maternal blood loss).
Why Was This Study Done?
One possible cause of placental insufficiency is inherited thrombophilia, an increased tendency to form blood clots that occurs in more than 10% of people. The commonest inherited thrombophilias are factor V Leiden (FVL) and prothrombin gene mutation (PGM). Comparisons of the frequencies of these thrombophilias in women who have had placenta-mediated pregnancy complications with the frequencies in women who have not had complications (“retrospective case control studies”) have found an association between thrombophilia and pregnancy complications. As a result, doctors sometimes give heparin to women with thrombophilia who have had a poor pregnancy outcome to reduce blood clotting during subsequent pregnancies (anticoagulant therapy). However, a better way to determine whether thrombophilia and pregnancy problems are associated is to recruit groups of women with and without thrombophilia and follow them during pregnancy to see whether they develop complications —“prospective cohort studies.” In this study, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a search that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) and meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of studies) of prospective cohort studies to estimate the risk of placenta-mediated pregnancy complications in women with FVL or PGM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified ten prospective cohort studies that examined the association between FVL/PGM and placenta-mediated pregnancy complications and that met their predefined criteria. In their meta-analysis of these studies, they estimated that the absolute risk of pregnancy loss in women with FVL was 4.2% whereas the absolute risk of pregnancy loss in women without FVL was 3.2%. In other words, women with FVL had a 52% higher risk of pregnancy loss than women without FVL (an odds ratio of 1.52). The absolute increased risk, however, was 1%. There was no significant association (a significant association is one that is unlikely to have occurred by chance) between PGM and pregnancy loss. Similarly, there was no significant association between either of the thrombophilias and pre-eclampsia, small for gestational age pregnancies, or placental abruption. Finally, there was no significant association between either FVL or PGM and the composite outcome of any placenta-mediated pregnancy complication (pregnancy loss, pre-eclampsia, small for gestational age, and placental abruption).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that women with FVL have a small absolute increased risk of pregnancy loss but that neither FVL nor PGM increase a woman's risk of pre-eclampsia or of giving birth to a small for gestational age infant. Although there seems to be no increased risk of pregnancy loss with PGM, more research is needed to confirm this finding and to confirm the lack of an association between thrombophilia and placental abruption. The researchers also warn that all these reassuring findings should be treated cautiously because of variability between the studies in how complications were defined. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that the introduction of anticoagulant therapies for women with thrombophilia and a history of pregnancy complications on the basis of retrospective case control studies might have been premature. Anticoagulant therapy should be considered experimental, therefore, until controlled trials of the approach have been completed.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000292.
Womenshealth.gov, a US Department of Health and Human Services resource, provides information on pregnancy complications
Tommys, a UK charity that funds scientific research into the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth, has information on problems in pregnancy
The March of Dimes Foundation, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, also has information on complications during pregnancy, including a fact sheet on thrombophilias and pregnancy
The US National Alliance for Thrombosis and Thrombophilia has detailed information on thrombophilia and an article on the evolving story of thrombophilia and pregnancy outcomes
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000292
PMCID: PMC2885985  PMID: 20563311
25.  Measuring Coverage in MNCH: Population HIV-Free Survival among Children under Two Years of Age in Four African Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001424.
Background
Population-based evaluations of programs for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) are scarce. We measured PMTCT service coverage, regimen use, and HIV-free survival among children ≤24 mo of age in Cameroon, Côte D'Ivoire, South Africa, and Zambia.
Methods and Findings
We randomly sampled households in 26 communities and offered participation if a child had been born to a woman living there during the prior 24 mo. We tested consenting mothers with rapid HIV antibody tests and tested the children of seropositive mothers with HIV DNA PCR or rapid antibody tests. Our primary outcome was 24-mo HIV-free survival, estimated with survival analysis. In an individual-level analysis, we evaluated the effectiveness of various PMTCT regimens. In a community-level analysis, we evaluated the relationship between HIV-free survival and community PMTCT coverage (the proportion of HIV-exposed infants in each community that received any PMTCT intervention during gestation or breastfeeding). We also compared our community coverage results to those of a contemporaneous study conducted in the facilities serving each sampled community. Of 7,985 surveyed children under 2 y of age, 1,014 (12.7%) were HIV-exposed. Of these, 110 (10.9%) were HIV-infected, 851 (83.9%) were HIV-uninfected, and 53 (5.2%) were dead. HIV-free survival at 24 mo of age among all HIV-exposed children was 79.7% (95% CI: 76.4, 82.6) overall, with the following country-level estimates: Cameroon (72.6%; 95% CI: 62.3, 80.5), South Africa (77.7%; 95% CI: 72.5, 82.1), Zambia (83.1%; 95% CI: 78.4, 86.8), and Côte D'Ivoire (84.4%; 95% CI: 70.0, 92.2). In adjusted analyses, the risk of death or HIV infection was non-significantly lower in children whose mothers received a more complex regimen of either two or three antiretroviral drugs compared to those receiving no prophylaxis (adjusted hazard ratio: 0.60; 95% CI: 0.34, 1.06). Risk of death was not different for children whose mothers received a more complex regimen compared to those given single-dose nevirapine (adjusted hazard ratio: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.45, 1.72). Community PMTCT coverage was highest in Cameroon, where 75 of 114 HIV-exposed infants met criteria for coverage (66%; 95% CI: 56, 74), followed by Zambia (219 of 444, 49%; 95% CI: 45, 54), then South Africa (152 of 365, 42%; 95% CI: 37, 47), and then Côte D'Ivoire (3 of 53, 5.7%; 95% CI: 1.2, 16). In a cluster-level analysis, community PMTCT coverage was highly correlated with facility PMTCT coverage (Pearson's r = 0.85), and moderately correlated with 24-mo HIV-free survival (Pearson's r = 0.29). In 14 of 16 instances where both the facility and community samples were large enough for comparison, the facility-based coverage measure exceeded that observed in the community.
Conclusions
HIV-free survival can be estimated with community surveys and should be incorporated into ongoing country monitoring. Facility-based coverage measures correlate with those derived from community sampling, but may overestimate population coverage. The more complex regimens recommended by the World Health Organization seem to have measurable public health benefit at the population level, but power was limited and additional field validation is needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
For a pregnant woman who is HIV-positive, the discrepancy across the world in outlook for mother and child is stark. Mother-to-child transmission of HIV during pregnancy is now less than 1% in many high-income settings, but occurs much more often in low-income countries. Three interventions have a major impact on transmission of HIV to the baby: antiretroviral drugs, mode of delivery, and type of infant feeding. The latter two are complex, as the interventions commonly used in high-income countries (cesarean section if the maternal viral load is high; exclusive formula feeding) have their own risks in low-income settings. Minimizing the risks of transmitting HIV through effective drug regimes therefore becomes particularly important. Monitoring progress on reducing the incidence of mother-to-child HIV transmission is essential, but not always easy to achieve.
Why Was This Study Done?
A research group led by Stringer and colleagues recently reported a study from four countries in Africa: Cameroon, Côte D'Ivoire, South Africa, and Zambia. The study showed that even in the health facility setting (e.g., hospitals and clinics), only half of infants whose mothers were HIV-positive received the minimum recommended drug treatment (one dose of nevirapine during labor) to prevent HIV transmission. Across the population of these countries, it is possible that fewer receive antiretroviral drugs, as the study did not include women who did not access health facilities. Therefore, the next stage of the study by this research group, reported here, involved going into the communities around these health facilities to find out how many infants under two years old had been exposed to HIV, whether they had received drugs to prevent transmission, and what proportion were alive and not infected with HIV at two years old.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers tested all consenting women who had delivered a baby in the last two years in the surrounding communities. If the mother was found to be HIV-positive, then the infant was also tested for HIV. The researchers then calculated how many of the infants would be alive at two years and free of HIV infection.
Most mothers (78%) agreed to testing for themselves and their infants. There were 7,985 children under two years of age in this study, of whom 13% had been born to an HIV-positive mother. Less than half (46%) of the HIV-positive mothers had received any drugs to prevent HIV transmission. Of the children with HIV-positive mothers, 11% were HIV-infected, 84% were not infected with HIV, and 5% had died. Overall, the researchers estimated that around 80% of these children would be alive at two years without HIV infection. This proportion differed non-significantly between the four countries (ranging from 73% to 84%). The researchers found higher rates of infant survival than they had expected and knew that they might have missed some infant deaths (e.g., if households with infant deaths were less likely to take part in the study).
The researchers found that their estimates of the proportion of HIV-positive mothers who received drugs to prevent transmission were fairly similar between their previous study, looking at health facilities, and this study of the surrounding communities. However, in 14 out of 16 comparisons, the estimate from the community was lower than that from the facility.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study shows that it would be possible to estimate how many infants are surviving free of HIV infection using a study based in the community, and that these estimates may be more accurate than those for studies based in health facilities. There are still a large proportion of HIV-positive mothers who are not receiving drugs to prevent transmission to the baby. The authors suggest that using two or three drugs to prevent HIV may help to reduce transmission.
There are already community surveys conducted in many low-income countries, but they have not included routine infant testing for HIV. It is now essential that organizations providing drugs, money, and infrastructure in this field consider more accurate means of monitoring incidence of HIV transmission from mother to infant, particularly at the community level.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001424.
The World Health Organization has more information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV
The United Nations Children's Fund has more information on the status of national PMTCT responses in the most affected countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001424
PMCID: PMC3646218  PMID: 23667341

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