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1.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Introduction
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Conclusions
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
2.  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
3.  Primary Prevention of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus and Large-for-Gestational-Age Newborns by Lifestyle Counseling: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1001036.
In a cluster-randomized trial, Riitta Luoto and colleagues find that counseling on diet and activity can reduce the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), but fail to find an effect on GDM.
Background
Our objective was to examine whether gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or newborns' high birthweight can be prevented by lifestyle counseling in pregnant women at high risk of GDM.
Method and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial, the NELLI study, in 14 municipalities in Finland, where 2,271 women were screened by oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) at 8–12 wk gestation. Euglycemic (n = 399) women with at least one GDM risk factor (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 kg/m2, glucose intolerance or newborn's macrosomia (≥4,500 g) in any earlier pregnancy, family history of diabetes, age ≥40 y) were included. The intervention included individual intensified counseling on physical activity and diet and weight gain at five antenatal visits. Primary outcomes were incidence of GDM as assessed by OGTT (maternal outcome) and newborns' birthweight adjusted for gestational age (neonatal outcome). Secondary outcomes were maternal weight gain and the need for insulin treatment during pregnancy. Adherence to the intervention was evaluated on the basis of changes in physical activity (weekly metabolic equivalent task (MET) minutes) and diet (intake of total fat, saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, saccharose, and fiber). Multilevel analyses took into account cluster, maternity clinic, and nurse level influences in addition to age, education, parity, and prepregnancy BMI. 15.8% (34/216) of women in the intervention group and 12.4% (22/179) in the usual care group developed GDM (absolute effect size 1.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.71–2.62, p = 0.36). Neonatal birthweight was lower in the intervention than in the usual care group (absolute effect size −133 g, 95% CI −231 to −35, p = 0.008) as was proportion of large-for-gestational-age (LGA) newborns (26/216, 12.1% versus 34/179, 19.7%, p = 0.042). Women in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber (adjusted coefficient 1.83, 95% CI 0.30–3.25, p = 0.023) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient 0.37, 95% CI 0.16–0.57, p<0.001), decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids (adjusted coefficient −0.63, 95% CI −1.12 to −0.15, p = 0.01) and intake of saccharose (adjusted coefficient −0.83, 95% CI −1.55 to −0.11, p  =  0.023), and had a tendency to a smaller decrease in MET minutes/week for at least moderate intensity activity (adjusted coefficient 91, 95% CI −37 to 219, p = 0.17) than women in the usual care group. In subgroup analysis, adherent women in the intervention group (n = 55/229) had decreased risk of GDM (27.3% versus 33.0%, p = 0.43) and LGA newborns (7.3% versus 19.5%, p = 0.03) compared to women in the usual care group.
Conclusions
The intervention was effective in controlling birthweight of the newborns, but failed to have an effect on maternal GDM.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN33885819
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are normally controlled by insulin, a hormone that the pancreas releases when blood-sugar levels rise after meals. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs and, if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops. Risk factors for GDM, which occurs in 2%–14% of pregnant women, include a high body-mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or low physical activity during pregnancy, high dietary intake of polyunsaturated fats, glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes) or the birth of a large baby in a previous pregnancy, and a family history of diabetes. GDM is associated with an increased rate of cesarean sections, induced deliveries, birth complications, and large-for-gestational-age (LGA) babies (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). GDM, which can often be controlled by diet and exercise, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases a woman's subsequent risk of developing diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although lifestyle changes can be used to control GDM, it is not known whether similar changes can prevent GDM developing (“primary prevention”). In this cluster-randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate whether individual intensified counseling on physical activity, diet, and weight gain integrated into routine maternity care visits can prevent the development of GDM and the occurrence of LGA babies among newborns. In a cluster-randomized controlled trial, groups of patients rather than individual patients are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions, and the outcomes in different “clusters” are compared. In this trial, each cluster is a municipality in the Pirkanmaa region of Finland.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 399 women, each of whom had a normal blood glucose level at 8–12 weeks gestation but at least one risk factor for GDM. Women in the intervention municipalities received intensified counseling on physical activity at 8–12 weeks' gestation, dietary counseling at 16–18 weeks' gestation, and further physical activity and dietary counseling at each subsequent antenatal visits. Women in the control municipalities received some dietary but little physical activity counseling as part of their usual care. 23.3% and 20.2% of women in the intervention and usual care groups, respectively, developed GDM, a nonstatistically significant difference (that is, a difference that could have occurred by chance). However, the average birthweight and the proportion of LGA babies were both significantly lower in the intervention group than in the usual care group. Food frequency questionnaires completed by the women indicated that, on average, those in the intervention group increased their intake of dietary fiber and polyunsaturated fatty acids and decreased their intake of saturated fatty acids and sucrose as instructed during counseling, The amount of moderate physical activity also tended to decrease less as pregnancy proceeded in the intervention group than in usual care group. Finally, compared to the usual care group, significantly fewer of the 24% of women in the intervention group who actually met dietary and physical activity targets (“adherent” women) developed GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intensified counseling on diet and physical activity is effective in controlling the birthweight of babies born to women at risk of developing GDM and encourages at least some of them to alter their lifestyle. However, the findings fail to show that the intervention reduces the risk of GDM because of the limited power of the study. The power of a study—the probability that it will achieve a statistically significant result—depends on the study's size and on the likely effect size of the intervention. Before starting this study, the researchers calculated that they would need 420 participants to see a statistically significant difference between the groups if their intervention reduced GDM incidence by 40%. This estimated effect size was probably optimistic and therefore the study lacked power. Nevertheless, the analyses performed among adherent women suggest that lifestyle changes might be a way to prevent GDM and so larger studies should now be undertaken to test this potential primary prevention intervention.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has pages on diabetes and on gestational diabetes; MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
More information on this trial of primary prevention of GDM is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001036
PMCID: PMC3096610  PMID: 21610860
4.  Cross sectional, community based study of care of newborn infants in Nepal 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2002;325(7372):1063.
Objective
To determine home based newborn care practices in rural Nepal in order to inform strategies to improve neonatal outcome.
Design
Cross sectional, retrospective study using structured interviews.
Setting
Makwanpur district, Nepal.
Participants
5411 married women aged 15 to 49 years who had given birth to a live baby in the past year.
Main outcome measures
Attendance at delivery, hygiene, thermal care, and early feeding practices.
Results
4893 (90%) women gave birth at home. Attendance at delivery by skilled government health workers was low (334, 6%), as was attendance by traditional birth attendants (267, 5%). Only 461 (8%) women had used a clean home delivery kit, and about half of attendants had washed their hands. Only 3482 (64%) newborn infants had been wrapped within half an hour of birth, and 4992 (92%) had been bathed within the first hour. 99% (5362) of babies were breast fed, 91% (4939) within six hours of birth. Practices with respect to colostrum and prelacteals were not a cause for anxiety.
Conclusions
Health promotion interventions most likely to improve newborn health in this setting include increasing attendance at delivery by skilled service providers, improving information for families about basic perinatal care, promotion of clean delivery practices, early cord cutting and wrapping of the baby, and avoidance of early bathing.
What is already known on this topicMost births in rural south Asia occur at homeNeonatal mortality has remained fairly constant in developing countries despite falling infant mortalityWhat this paper addsOnly 6% of births in rural Nepal took place in the presence of a skilled attendantCord cutting implements were often unclean and drying and wrapping of newborn infants was usually delayed99% of babies were breast fed, 92% of them within six hours of birth, and colostrum was generally givenInterventions need to focus on educating women about hygiene, encouraging early wrapping, and delaying bathing of newborn babies
PMCID: PMC131178  PMID: 12424164
5.  Implementation of evidence-based antenatal care in Mozambique: a cluster randomized controlled trial: study protocol 
Background
Antenatal care (ANC) reduces maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality directly through the detection and treatment of pregnancy-related illnesses, and indirectly through the detection of women at increased risk of delivery complications. The potential benefits of quality antenatal care services are most significant in low-resource countries where morbidity and mortality levels among women of reproductive age and neonates are higher.
WHO developed an ANC model that recommended the delivery of services scientifically proven to improve maternal, perinatal and neonatal outcomes. The aim of this study is to determine the effect of an intervention designed to increase the use of the package of evidence-based services included in the WHO ANC model in Mozambique. The primary hypothesis is that the intervention will increase the use of evidence-based practices during ANC visits in comparison to the standard dissemination channels currently used in the country.
Methods
This is a demonstration project to be developed through a facility-based cluster randomized controlled trial with a stepped wedge design. The intervention was tailored, based on formative research findings, to be readily applicable to local prenatal care services and acceptable to local pregnant women and health providers. The intervention includes four components: the provision of kits with all necessary medicines and laboratory supplies for ANC (medical and non-medical equipment), a storage system, a tracking system, and training sessions for health care providers. Ten clinics were selected and will start receiving the intervention in a random order. Outcomes will be computed at each time point when a new clinic starts the intervention. The primary outcomes are the delivery of selected health care practices to women attending the first ANC visit, and secondary outcomes are the delivery of selected health care practices to women attending second and higher ANC visits as well as the attitude of midwives in relation to adopting the practices. This demonstration project is pragmatic in orientation and will be conducted under routine conditions.
Discussion
There is an urgent need for effective and sustainable scaling-up approaches of health interventions in low-resource countries. This can only be accomplished by the engagement of the country’s health stakeholders at all levels. This project aims to achieve improvement in the quality of antenatal care in Mozambique through the implementation of a multifaceted intervention on three levels: policy, organizational and health care delivery levels. The implementation of the trial will probably require a change in accountability and behaviour of health care providers and we expect this change in ‘habits’ will contribute to obtaining reliable health indicators, not only related to research issues, but also to health care outcomes derived from the new health care model. At policy level, the results of this study may suggest a need for revision of the supply chain management system. Given that supply chain management is a major challenge for many low-resource countries, we envisage that important lessons on how to improve the supply chain in Mozambique and other similar settings, will be drawn from this study.
Trial registration
Pan African Clinical Trial Registry database. Identification number: PACTR201306000550192.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-228
PMCID: PMC4057585  PMID: 24886392
Antenatal care; Pregnancy
6.  Why Do Women Not Use Antenatal Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001373.
In a synthesis of 21 qualitative studies representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries, Kenneth Finlayson and Soo Downe examine the reasons why many women in low- and middle-income countries do not receive adequate antenatal care.
Background
Almost 50% of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) don't receive adequate antenatal care. Women's views can offer important insights into this problem. Qualitative studies exploring inadequate use of antenatal services have been undertaken in a range of countries, but the findings are not easily transferable. We aimed to inform the development of future antenatal care programmes through a synthesis of findings in all relevant qualitative studies.
Methods and Findings
Using a predetermined search strategy, we identified robust qualitative studies reporting on the views and experiences of women in LMICs who received inadequate antenatal care. We used meta-ethnographic techniques to generate themes and a line-of-argument synthesis. We derived policy-relevant hypotheses from the findings. We included 21 papers representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries. Three key themes were identified: “pregnancy as socially risky and physiologically healthy”, “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty”, and “not getting it right the first time”. The line-of-argument synthesis describes a dissonance between programme design and cultural contexts that may restrict access and discourage return visits. We hypothesize that centralised, risk-focused antenatal care programmes may be at odds with the resources, beliefs, and experiences of pregnant women who underuse antenatal services.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between current antenatal care provision and the social and cultural context of some women in LMICs. Antenatal care provision that is theoretically and contextually at odds with local contextual beliefs and experiences is likely to be underused, especially when attendance generates increased personal risks of lost family resources or physical danger during travel, when the promised care is not delivered because of resource constraints, and when women experience covert or overt abuse in care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Although maternal deaths worldwide have almost halved since 1990, according to the latest figures, every day roughly 800 women and adolescent girls still die from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth: in 2010, 287,000 women died during or following pregnancy and childbirth, with almost all of these deaths (99%) occurring in low-resource settings. Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the interventions to prevent or manage the most common complications (severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion) are well known. Furthermore, many of these complications can be prevented, detected, or treated during antenatal care visits with trained health workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of four antenatal visits per pregnancy, but according to WHO figures, between 2005 and 2010 only 53% of pregnant women worldwide attended the recommended four antenatal visits; in low-income countries, this figure was a disappointing 36%. Unfortunately, despite huge international efforts to promote and provide antenatal care, there has been little improvement in these statistics over the past decade. It is therefore important to investigate the reasons for poor antenatal attendance and to seek the views of users of antenatal care. In this study, the researchers combined studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that included women's views on antenatal care in a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies (qualitative research uses techniques, such as structured interviews, to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour, and a meta-synthesis combines and interprets information across studies, contexts, and populations).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched several medical, sociological, and psychological databases to find appropriate qualitative studies published between January 1980 and February 2012 that explored the antenatal care experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of women from LMICs who had chosen to access antenatal care late (after 12 weeks' gestation), infrequently (less than four times), or not at all. The researchers included 21 studies (out of the 2,997 initially identified) in their synthesis, representing the views of 1,239 women from 15 countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda) who were either interviewed directly or gave their opinion as part of a focus group.
The researchers identified three main themes. The first theme reflects women's views that pregnancy is a healthy state and so saw little reason to visit health professionals when they perceived no risk to their well-being—the researchers called this theme, “pregnancy as socially contingent and physiologically healthy.” The second theme relates to women's limited financial resources, so that even when antenatal care was offered free of charge, the cost of transport to get there, the loss of earnings associated with the visit, and the possibility of having to pay for medicines meant that women were unable to attend—the researchers called this theme “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty.” The third theme the researchers identified related to women's views that the antenatal services were inadequate and that the benefits of attending did not outweigh any potential harms. For example, pregnant women who initially recognized the benefits of antenatal care were often disappointed by the lack of resources they found when they got there and, consequently, decided not to return. The researchers called this theme “not getting it right the first time.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between the principles that underpin the provision of antenatal care and the beliefs and socio-economic contexts of pregnant women in LMICs, meaning that even high-quality antenatal care may not be used by some pregnant women unless their views and concerns are addressed. The themes identified in this meta-synthesis could provide the basis for a new approach to the design and delivery of antenatal care that takes local beliefs and values and resource availability into account. Such programs might help ensure that antenatal care meets pregnant women's expectations and treats them appropriately so that they want to regularly attend antenatal care.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373.
Wikipedia describes antenatal care (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization has a wealth of information relating to pregnancy, including antenatal care
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has evidence-based guidelines on antenatal care
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has a series of web pages and links relating to respectful maternity care in LMICs
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics is an international organization with connections to various maternity initiatives in LMICs
International Confederation of Midwives has details of the Millennium Development Goals relating to maternity care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373
PMCID: PMC3551970  PMID: 23349622
7.  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
8.  A cluster randomised controlled trial of the community effectiveness of two interventions in rural Malawi to improve health care and to reduce maternal, newborn and infant mortality 
Trials  2010;11:88.
Background
The UN Millennium Development Goals call for substantial reductions in maternal and child mortality, to be achieved through reductions in morbidity and mortality during pregnancy, delivery, postpartum and early childhood. The MaiMwana Project aims to test community-based interventions that tackle maternal and child health problems through increasing awareness and local action.
Methods/Design
This study uses a two-by-two factorial cluster-randomised controlled trial design to test the impact of two interventions. The impact of a community mobilisation intervention run through women's groups, on home care, health care-seeking behaviours and maternal and infant mortality, will be tested. The impact of a volunteer-led infant feeding and care support intervention, on rates of exclusive breastfeeding, uptake of HIV-prevention services and infant mortality, will also be tested. The women's group intervention will employ local female facilitators to guide women's groups through a four-phase cycle of problem identification and prioritisation, strategy identification, implementation and evaluation. Meetings will be held monthly at village level. The infant feeding intervention will select local volunteers to provide advice and support for breastfeeding, birth preparedness, newborn care and immunisation. They will visit pregnant and new mothers in their homes five times during and after pregnancy.
The unit of intervention allocation will be clusters of rural villages of 2500-4000 population. 48 clusters have been defined and randomly allocated to either women's groups only, infant feeding support only, both interventions, or no intervention. Study villages are surrounded by 'buffer areas' of non-study villages to reduce contamination between intervention and control areas. Outcome indicators will be measured through a demographic surveillance system. Primary outcomes will be maternal, infant, neonatal and perinatal mortality for the women's group intervention, and exclusive breastfeeding rates and infant mortality for the infant feeding intervention.
Structured interviews will be conducted with mothers one-month and six-months after birth to collect detailed quantitative data on care practices and health-care-seeking. Further qualitative, quantitative and economic data will be collected for process and economic evaluations.
Trial registration
ISRCTN06477126
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-11-88
PMCID: PMC2949851  PMID: 20849613
9.  Mobile phones improve antenatal care attendance in Zanzibar: a cluster randomized controlled trial 
Background
Applying mobile phones in healthcare is increasingly prioritized to strengthen healthcare systems. Antenatal care has the potential to reduce maternal morbidity and improve newborns’ survival but this benefit may not be realized in sub-Saharan Africa where the attendance and quality of care is declining. We evaluated the association between a mobile phone intervention and antenatal care in a resource-limited setting. We aimed to assess antenatal care in a comprehensive way taking into consideration utilisation of antenatal care as well as content and timing of interventions during pregnancy.
Methods
This study was an open label pragmatic cluster-randomised controlled trial with primary healthcare facilities in Zanzibar as the unit of randomisation. 2550 pregnant women (1311 interventions and 1239 controls) who attended antenatal care at selected primary healthcare facilities were included at their first antenatal care visit and followed until 42 days after delivery. 24 primary health care facilities in six districts were randomized to either mobile phone intervention or standard care. The intervention consisted of a mobile phone text-message and voucher component. Primary outcome measure was four or more antenatal care visits during pregnancy. Secondary outcome measures were tetanus vaccination, preventive treatment for malaria, gestational age at last antenatal care visit, and antepartum referral.
Results
The mobile phone intervention was associated with an increase in antenatal care attendance. In the intervention group 44% of the women received four or more antenatal care visits versus 31% in the control group (OR, 2.39; 95% CI, 1.03-5.55). There was a trend towards improved timing and quality of antenatal care services across all secondary outcome measures although not statistically significant.
Conclusions
The wired mothers’ mobile phone intervention significantly increased the proportion of women receiving the recommended four antenatal care visits during pregnancy and there was a trend towards improved quality of care with more women receiving preventive health services, more women attending antenatal care late in pregnancy and more women with antepartum complications identified and referred. Mobile phone applications may contribute towards improved maternal and newborn health and should be considered by policy makers in resource-limited settings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT01821222.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-29
PMCID: PMC3898378  PMID: 24438517
Antenatal care; Maternal health; Neonatal health; Mobile phones; mHealth; Zanzibar
10.  Effect on Postpartum Hemorrhage of Prophylactic Oxytocin (10 IU) by Injection by Community Health Officers in Ghana: A Community-Based, Cluster-Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001524.
Cynthia Stanton and colleagues conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Ghana to assess whether oxytocin given by injection by community health officers at home births was a feasible and safe option in preventing postpartum hemorrhage.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Oxytocin (10 IU) is the drug of choice for prevention of postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). Its use has generally been restricted to medically trained staff in health facilities. We assessed the effectiveness, safety, and feasibility of PPH prevention using oxytocin injected by peripheral health care providers without midwifery skills at home births.
Methods and Findings
This community-based, cluster-randomized trial was conducted in four rural districts in Ghana. We randomly allocated 54 community health officers (stratified on district and catchment area distance to a health facility: ≥10 km versus <10 km) to intervention (one injection of oxytocin [10 IU] one minute after birth) and control (no provision of prophylactic oxytocin) arms. Births attended by a community health officer constituted a cluster. Our primary outcome was PPH, using multiple definitions; (PPH-1) blood loss ≥500 mL; (PPH-2) PPH-1 plus women who received early treatment for PPH; and (PPH-3) PPH-2 plus any other women referred to hospital for postpartum bleeding. Unsafe practice is defined as oxytocin use before delivery of the baby. We enrolled 689 and 897 women, respectively, into oxytocin and control arms of the trial from April 2011 to November 2012. In oxytocin and control arms, respectively, PPH-1 rates were 2.6% versus 5.5% (RR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.27–0.88); PPH-2 rates were 3.8% versus 10.8% (RR: 0.35; 95% CI: 0.18–0.63), and PPH-3 rates were similar to those of PPH-2. Compared to women in control clusters, those in the intervention clusters lost 45.1 mL (17.7–72.6) less blood. There were no cases of oxytocin use before delivery of the baby and no major adverse events requiring notification of the institutional review boards. Limitations include an unblinded trial and imbalanced numbers of participants, favoring controls.
Conclusion
Maternal health care planners can consider adapting this model to extend the use of oxytocin into peripheral settings including, in some contexts, home births.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01108289
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Many women in low-and middle-income countries die unnecessarily during childbirth, even though the solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. Maternal death rates are highest amongst poor women living in remote areas, as they are least likely to have access to adequate health care. One of the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals is to reduce maternal death rates by three-quarters by 2015. Between 1990 and 2010, these rates were nearly halved. So there is still some way to go to meet the target.
One of the major causes of maternal death is excessive bleeding after birth, known as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). The highest rates of PPH are found in Africa (28% of births), with an overall global rate of 11%. PPH can be caused by the uterus not contracting after the baby is born, damage to tissues and blood vessels, retention of the placenta, and problems with blood-clotting.
PPH can be prevented by an injection of oxytocin (a hormone) or with tablets of the drug misoprostol immediately after birth. Other drugs exist but are used much less frequently in low-income countries. If the mother does bleed excessively, then these interventions can also be used to treat PPH in the hours following birth. These drugs cause the uterus to contract. Continued severe bleeding requires emergency treatment in hospital. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that in situations where women give birth without the assistance of a trained midwife, priority should be given to preventing PPH because access to emergency services may be limited.
Why Was This Study Done?
Of the two most common options for preventing PPH, oxytocin is generally the preferred choice. It has the advantage of having no side effects, whereas misoprostol can cause fever and shivering. A repeat injection of oxytocin can also be given if the mother continues to bleed excessively, whereas a dose of misoprostol after birth should only be given once. A major concern about both drugs is that the timing of administration must be precise. Giving a drug that causes the uterus to contract before birth can be harmful to both mother and baby. A disadvantage of oxytocin is that it requires someone trained and authorized to give an injection. For this reason, oxytocin has so far been generally limited to hospitals and clinics, where it can be administered by medically trained professionals. Another disadvantage is that oxytocin is weakened by heat, which means its storage and use may be impractical in hot countries.
The main aim of this study was therefore to find out whether health workers without midwifery skills are able to administer oxytocin safely when attending home births in poor, rural communities.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers carried out a cluster-randomized controlled trial in four rural districts in Ghana, working with community health officers (CHOs). CHOs are trained for two years in giving childhood immunizations and antenatal and postnatal care, but are not trained midwives. 54 CHOs were randomized to one of two groups. The CHOs in the first group gave a preventative oxytocin injection to the mother at every birth they attended. The oxytocin was administered using a pre-filled, disposable device called Uniject that is easier and quicker to use than a syringe and needle. The packaging also included a heat-sensitive label that indicated whether the oxytocin still met the manufacturer's criteria for an acceptably potent drug. CHOs in the second group acted as controls, and did not give any oxytocin injections to prevent PPH. The women seen by each CHO formed a cluster. Comparisons were made across the clusters of women that either received or did not receive the preventative intervention.
The researchers found that the women who were given a preventative oxytocin injection lost less blood after birth than the women who did not receive a preventative injection. There were also fewer cases of PPH amongst the women who received oxytocin for PPH prevention. 2.6% of the women who received a preventative oxytocin injection experienced PPH, compared to 5.5% of the controls. Therefore the risk of PPH was approximately halved. There were no cases of oxytocin use before delivery of the baby and no difference in the frequency of other birth complications between women in the intervention and control groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that under the trial conditions, CHOs can safely administer oxytocin injections when attending home births in poor, rural settings. This intervention also proved practical to use in the Uniject format.
The study therefore suggests that oxytocin should be considered for use in regions where maternal deaths from PPH are still unacceptably high. There are also several noteworthy limitations, such as unblinding and the imbalance between participant groups. The researchers emphasized that their findings do not mean that oxytocin is always a better choice than misoprostol for home births. Many factors will influence which intervention is the most feasible, such as the local availability of sufficiently skilled health professionals, the relative cost and availability of the two drugs, as well as ease of access to emergency health services.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001524.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by João Paulo Souza
WHO Factsheet on Maternal Mortality
United Nations Population Fund's Goals to improve sexual and reproductive health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001524
PMCID: PMC3794862  PMID: 24130463
11.  Alternative versus standard packages of antenatal care for low-risk pregnancy 
Background
The number of visits for antenatal (prenatal) care developed without evidence of how many visits are necessary. The content of each visit also needs evaluation.
Objectives
To compare the effects of antenatal care programmes with reduced visits for low-risk women with standard care.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (April 2010), reference lists of articles and contacted researchers in the field.
Selection criteria
Randomised trials comparing a reduced number of antenatal visits, with or without goal-oriented care, with standard care.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors assessed trial quality and extracted data independently.
Main results
We included seven trials (more than 60,000 women): four in high-income countries with individual randomisation; three in low- and middle-income countries with cluster randomisation (clinics as the unit of randomisation). The number of visits for standard care varied, with fewer visits in low- and middle- income country trials. In studies in high-income countries, women in the reduced visits groups, on average, attended between 8.2 and 12 times. In low- and middle- income country trials, many women in the reduced visits group attended on fewer than five occasions, although in these trials the content as well as the number of visits was changed, so as to be more ‘goal oriented’.
Perinatal mortality was increased for those randomised to reduced visits rather than standard care, and this difference was borderline for statistical significance (five trials; risk ratio (RR) 1.14; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00 to 1.31). In the subgroup analysis, for high-income countries the number of deaths was small (32/5108), and there was no clear difference between the groups (2 trials; RR 0.90; 95% CI 0.45 to 1.80); for low- and middle-income countries perinatal mortality was significantly higher in the reduced visits group (3 trials RR 1.15; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.32). Reduced visits were associated with a reduction in admission to neonatal intensive care that was borderline for significance (RR 0.89; 95% CI 0.79 to 1.02). There were no clear differences between the groups for the other reported clinical outcomes.
Women in all settings were less satisfied with the reduced visits schedule and perceived the gap between visits as too long. Reduced visits may be associated with lower costs.
Authors’ conclusions
In settings with limited resources where the number of visits is already low, reduced visits programmes of antenatal care are associated with an increase in perinatal mortality compared to standard care, although admission to neonatal intensive care may be reduced. Women prefer the standard visits schedule. Where the standard number of visits is low, visits should not be reduced without close monitoring of fetal and neonatal outcome.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000934.pub2
PMCID: PMC4164448  PMID: 20927721
*Office Visits [utilization]; Developed Countries; Developing Countries; Family Practice; Midwifery; Patient Satisfaction; Perinatal Mortality; Pregnancy Outcome; Prenatal Care [*standards; utilization]; Program Evaluation; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Female; Humans; Pregnancy
12.  Are Birth-preparedness Programmes Effective? Results From a Field Trial in Siraha District, Nepal 
The birth-preparedness package (BPP) promotes active preparation and decision-making for births, including pregnancy/postpartum periods, by pregnant women and their families. This paper describes a district-wide field trial of the BPP implemented through the government health system in Siraha, Nepal, during 2003–2004. The aim of the field trial was to determine the effectiveness of the BPP to positively influence planning for births, household-level behaviours that affect the health of pregnant and postpartum women and their newborns, and their use of selected health services for maternal and newborn care. Community health workers promoted desired behaviours through inter-personal counselling with individuals and groups. Content of messages included maternal and newborn-danger signs and encouraged the use of healthcare services and preparation for emergencies. Thirty-cluster baseline and endline household surveys of mothers of infants aged less than one year were used for estimating the change in key outcome indicators. Fifty-four percent of respondents (n=162) were directly exposed to BPP materials while pregnant. A composite index of seven indicators that measure knowledge of respondents, use of health services, and preparation for emergencies increased from 33% at baseline to 54% at endline (p=0.001). Five key newborn practices increased by 19 to 29 percentage points from baseline to endline (p values ranged from 0.000 to 0.06). Certain key maternal health indicators, such as skilled birth attendance and use of emergency obstetric care, did not change. The BPP can positively influence knowledge and intermediate health outcomes, such as household practices and use of some health services. The BPP can be implemented by government health services with minimal outside assistance but should be comprehensively integrated into the safe motherhood programme rather than implemented as a separate intervention.
PMCID: PMC3001152  PMID: 17591345
Pregnancy; Delivery; Obstetric care; Parturition; Safe motherhood; Behaviour; Behaviour change communication; Communication; Community; Community health services; Interpersonal relations; Counselling; Delivery of healthcare; Health services; Nepal
13.  Newborn care practices at home and in health facilities in 4 regions of Ethiopia 
BMC Pediatrics  2013;13:198.
Background
Ethiopia is one of the ten countries with the highest number of neonatal deaths globally, and only 1 in 10 women deliver with a skilled attendant. Promotion of essential newborn care practices is one strategy for improving newborn health outcomes that can be delivered in communities as well as facilities. This article describes newborn care practices reported by recently-delivered women (RDWs) in four regions of Ethiopia.
Methods
We conducted a household survey with two-stage cluster sampling to assess newborn care practices among women who delivered a live baby in the period 1 to 7 months prior to data collection.
Results
The majority of women made one antenatal care (ANC) visit to a health facility, although less than half made four or more visits and women were most likely to deliver their babies at home. About one-fifth of RDWs in this survey had contact with Health Extension Workers (HEWS) during ANC, but nurse/midwives were the most common providers, and few women had postnatal contact with any health provider. Common beneficial newborn care practices included exclusive breastfeeding (87.6%), wrapping the baby before delivery of the placenta (82.3%), and dry cord care (65.2%). Practices contrary to WHO recommendations that were reported in this population of recent mothers include bathing during the first 24 hours of life (74.7%), application of butter and other substances to the cord (19.9%), and discarding of colostrum milk (44.5%). The results suggest that there are not large differences for most essential newborn care indicators between facility and home deliveries, with the exception of delayed bathing and skin-to-skin care.
Conclusions
Improving newborn care and newborn health outcomes in Ethiopia will likely require a multifaceted approach. Given low facility delivery rates, community-based promotion of preventive newborn care practices, which has been effective in other settings, is an important strategy. For this strategy to be successful, the coverage of counseling delivered by HEWs and other community volunteers should be increased.
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-13-198
PMCID: PMC4219496  PMID: 24289501
14.  The effect of participatory women's groups on birth outcomes in Bangladesh: does coverage matter? Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:208.
Background
Progress on neonatal survival has been slow in most countries. While there is evidence on what works to reduce newborn mortality, there is limited knowledge on how to deliver interventions effectively when health systems are weak. Cluster randomized trials have shown strong reductions in neonatal mortality using community mobilisation with women's groups in rural Nepal and India. A similar trial in Bangladesh showed no impact. A main hypothesis is that this negative finding is due to the much lower coverage of women's groups in the intervention population in Bangladesh compared to India and Nepal. For evidence-based policy making it is important to examine if women's group coverage is a main determinant of their impact. The study aims to test the effect on newborn and maternal health outcomes of a participatory women's group intervention with a high population coverage of women's groups.
Methods
A cluster randomised trial of a participatory women's group intervention will be conducted in 3 districts of rural Bangladesh. As we aim to study a women's group intervention with high population coverage, the same 9 intervention and 9 control unions will be used as in the 2005-2007 trial. These had been randomly allocated using the districts as strata. To increase coverage, 648 new groups were formed in addition to the 162 existing groups that were part of the previous trial. An open cohort of women who are permanent residents in the union in which their delivery or death was identified, is enrolled. Women and their newborns are included after birth, or, if a woman dies during pregnancy, after her death. Excluded are women who are temporary residents in the union in which their birth or death was identified. The primary outcome is neonatal mortality in the last 24 months of the study. A low cost surveillance system will be used to record all birth outcomes and deaths to women of reproductive age in the study population. Data on home care practices and health care use are collected through interviews.
Trial registration
ISRCTN: ISRCTN01805825
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-208
PMCID: PMC3197496  PMID: 21943044
cluster randomised trial; neonatal mortality; community participation; Bangladesh; women's groups
15.  Impact of Round-the-Clock, Rapid Oral Fluid HIV Testing of Women in Labor in Rural India 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e92.
Background
Testing pregnant women for HIV at the time of labor and delivery is the last opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) measures, particularly in settings where women do not receive adequate antenatal care. However, HIV testing and counseling of pregnant women in labor is a challenge, especially in resource-constrained settings. In India, many rural women present for delivery without any prior antenatal care. Those who do get antenatal care are not always tested for HIV, because of deficiencies in the provision of HIV testing and counseling services. In this context, we investigated the impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid, point-of-care HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward at a tertiary care hospital in rural India.
Methods and Findings
After they provided written informed consent, women admitted to the labor ward of a rural teaching hospital in India were offered two rapid tests on oral fluid and finger-stick specimens (OraQuick Rapid HIV-1/HIV-2 tests, OraSure Technologies). Simultaneously, venous blood was drawn for conventional HIV ELISA testing. Western blot tests were performed for confirmatory testing if women were positive by both rapid tests and dual ELISA, or where test results were discordant. Round-the-clock (24 h, 7 d/wk) abbreviated prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions were offered as part of the testing strategy. HIV-positive women were administered PMTCT interventions. Of 1,252 eligible women (age range 18 y to 38 y) approached for consent over a 9 mo period in 2006, 1,222 (98%) accepted HIV testing in the labor ward. Of these, 1,003 (82%) women presented with either no reports or incomplete reports of prior HIV testing results at the time of admission to the labor ward. Of 1,222 women, 15 were diagnosed as HIV-positive (on the basis of two rapid tests, dual ELISA and Western blot), yielding a seroprevalence of 1.23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61%–1.8%). Of the 15 HIV test–positive women, four (27%) had presented with reported HIV status, and 11 (73%) new cases of HIV infection were detected due to rapid testing in the labor room. Thus, 11 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions on account of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing and counseling in the labor room. While both OraQuick tests (oral and finger-stick) were 100% specific, one false-negative result was documented (with both oral fluid and finger-stick specimens). Of the 15 HIV-infected women who delivered, 13 infants were HIV seronegative at birth and at 1 and 4 mo after delivery; two HIV-positive infants died within a month of delivery.
Conclusions
In a busy rural labor ward setting in India, we demonstrated that it is feasible to introduce a program of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing, including prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions. Our data suggest that the availability of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing resulted in successful documentation of HIV serostatus in a large proportion (82%) of rural women who were unaware of their HIV status when admitted to the labor room. In addition, 11 (73%) of a total of 15 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions because of round-the-clock rapid testing in the labor ward. These findings are relevant for PMTCT programs in developing countries.
Nitika Pant Pai and colleagues report the results of offering a round-the-clock rapid HIV testing program in a rural labor ward setting in India.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the first reported case of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in 1981, the number of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, has risen steadily. Now, more than 33 million people are infected, almost half of them women. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, but mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV is also an important transmission route. HIV-positive women often pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding, if nothing is done to prevent viral transmission. In developed countries, interventions such as voluntary testing and counseling, safe delivery practices (for example, offering cesarean delivery to HIV-positive women), and antiretroviral treatment of the mother during pregnancy and labor and of her newborn baby have minimized the risk of MTCT. In developing countries, the prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) is much less effective, in part because pregnant women often do not know their HIV status. Consequently, in 2007, nearly half a million children became infected with HIV mainly through MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many developing countries, women do not receive adequate antenatal care. In India, for example, nearly half the women living in rural areas do not receive any antenatal care until they are in labor. This gives health care providers very little time in which to counsel women about HIV infection, test them for the virus, and start interventions to prevent MTCT. Furthermore, testing pregnant women in labor for HIV and counseling them is a challenge, particularly where resources are limited. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the feasibility and impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward in a rural teaching hospital in Sevagram, India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Women admitted to the labor ward between January and September 2006 were offered two rapid HIV tests—one that used a saliva sample and the other that used blood taken from a finger prick. Blood was also taken from a vein for conventional HIV testing. All the women were given a 15-minute counseling session about how HIV is transmitted, the importance of HIV testing, and information on PMTCT before their child was born (prepartum counseling), and a longer postpartum counseling session. HIV-positive women were given a cesarean delivery where possible and antiretroviral drug treatment to reduce MTCT. 1,222 women admitted to the labor ward during the study period (1,003 of whom did not know their HIV status) accepted HIV testing. Of 15 study participants who were HIV positive, 11 learnt of their HIV status in the labor room. Two babies born to these HIV-positive women were HIV positive and died within a month of delivery; the other 13 babies were HIV negative at birth and at 1 and 4 months after delivery. Finally, the rapid HIV tests missed only one HIV-positive woman (no false-positive results were given), and the time from enrolling a woman into the study through referring her for PMTCT intervention where necessary averaged 40–60 minutes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show the feasibility and positive impact of the introduction of round-the-clock pre- and postpartum HIV counseling and rapid HIV testing into a busy rural Indian labor ward. Few of the women entering this ward knew their HIV status previously but the introduction of these facilities in this setting successfully informed these women of their HIV status. In addition, the round-the-clock counseling and testing led to 11 women and their babies receiving PMTCT interventions who would otherwise have been missed. These findings need to be confirmed in other settings and the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of this approach for the improvement of PMTCT in developing countries needs to be investigated. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that round-the-clock rapid HIV testing might be an effective and acceptable way to reduce MTCT of HIV in many developing countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS and on HIV infection in women
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Women, Children, and HIV provides extensive information on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in developing countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in India, on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission
AIDSinfo, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services provides health information for HIV-positive pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092
PMCID: PMC2365974  PMID: 18462011
16.  Association between Clean Delivery Kit Use, Clean Delivery Practices, and Neonatal Survival: Pooled Analysis of Data from Three Sites in South Asia 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(2):e1001180.
A pooled analysis of data from three studies in South Asia demonstrates an association between use of clean delivery kits during home births and reduced risk of neonatal mortality.
Background
Sepsis accounts for up to 15% of an estimated 3.3 million annual neonatal deaths globally. We used data collected from the control arms of three previously conducted cluster-randomised controlled trials in rural Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to examine the association between clean delivery kit use or clean delivery practices and neonatal mortality among home births.
Methods and Findings
Hierarchical, logistic regression models were used to explore the association between neonatal mortality and clean delivery kit use or clean delivery practices in 19,754 home births, controlling for confounders common to all study sites. We tested the association between kit use and neonatal mortality using a pooled dataset from all three sites and separately for each site. We then examined the association between individual clean delivery practices addressed in the contents of the kit (boiled blade and thread, plastic sheet, gloves, hand washing, and appropriate cord care) and neonatal mortality. Finally, we examined the combined association between mortality and four specific clean delivery practices (boiled blade and thread, hand washing, and plastic sheet). Using the pooled dataset, we found that kit use was associated with a relative reduction in neonatal mortality (adjusted odds ratio 0.52, 95% CI 0.39–0.68). While use of a clean delivery kit was not always accompanied by clean delivery practices, using a plastic sheet during delivery, a boiled blade to cut the cord, a boiled thread to tie the cord, and antiseptic to clean the umbilicus were each significantly associated with relative reductions in mortality, independently of kit use. Each additional clean delivery practice used was associated with a 16% relative reduction in neonatal mortality (odds ratio 0.84, 95% CI 0.77–0.92).
Conclusions
The appropriate use of a clean delivery kit or clean delivery practices is associated with relative reductions in neonatal mortality among home births in underserved, rural populations.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Worldwide, around 3.3 million babies die in the first month of life, according to data for 2009 from the World Health Organization. Although the global neonatal mortality rate declined by 28% (from 33.2 deaths per 1,000 live births to 23.9) between 1990 and 2009, the proportion of child deaths that are now in the neonatal period has increased in all regions of the world, and currently stands at 41%. This figure is concerning and neonatal mortality remains a big obstacle to the international community in meeting the target of Millennium Development Goal 4—to reduce deaths in children under 5 years by two-thirds from 1990 levels by 2015. At least 15% of all neonatal deaths are due to sepsis (systematic bacterial infection) and an estimated 30%–40% of infections are transmitted at the time of birth. Therefore preventing infections through clean delivery practices is an important strategy to reduce sepsis-related deaths in newborns and can contribute to reducing the overall burden of neonatal deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
In South Asia, around 65% of deliveries occur at home, without skilled birth attendants, making practices around clean delivery particularly challenging. To date, evidence on the impact of clean delivery kits and clean delivery practices on neonatal mortality or sepsis-related neonatal deaths from community-based studies is scarce. In this study the researchers explored the associations between neonatal mortality, the use of clean delivery kits, and individual clean delivery practices by using data from the control arms of three cluster-randomized controlled trials conducted among rural populations in South Asia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used data from almost 20,000 (19,754) home births available from the control arms of three community-based cluster-randomized trials conducted between 2000 and 2008 in India (n = 6,841, 18 clusters), Bangladesh (n = 7,041, five clusters), and Nepal (n = 5,872, five clusters). The researchers did not include data from other previously conducted trials on clean delivery practices because of the mix of designs used in these studies and limited their analysis to live-born singleton infants delivered at home in control areas, for whom data on birth kit use were available. The researchers conducted a separate analysis for each country on kit use and clean delivery practices and also analyzed the pooled dataset for all countries while controlling for factors about the mother, the pregnancy, the delivery, and the postnatal period.
Using these methods, the researchers found that kits were used for 18.4% of home births in India, 18.4% in Bangladesh, and 5.7% in Nepal. Importantly, according to the pooled analysis, kit use was associated with a 48% relative reduction in neonatal mortality (odds ratio/chance 0.52), which was similar across all countries: 57% relative reduction in neonatal mortality in India, 32% in Bangladesh, and 49% in Nepal. Delivery practices were also important: in the pooled country analysis, the use of a boiled blade to cut the cord, antiseptic to clean the cord, a boiled thread to tie the cord, and a plastic sheet for a clean delivery surface were all associated with significant relative reductions in mortality after controlling for kit use and confounders common to all sites. The researchers found a 16% relative reduction in mortality with each additional clean delivery practice used.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the appropriate use of a clean delivery kit and clean delivery practices could lead to substantial reductions in neonatal mortality among home births in poor rural communities with limited access to health care. The results also reinforce the importance of each clean delivery practice; hand washing and use of a sterilised blade, boiled thread, and plastic sheet were linearly associated with a reduction in neonatal deaths with each additional clean delivery practice used. Costs of such kits are low (US$0.44 in India, US$0.40 in Nepal, and US$0.27 in Bangladesh, although these costs may still be prohibitive for the poorest women), and given the impact of clean delivery kits and clean delivery practices in reducing neonatal practices, such strategies should be widely promoted by the international community.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001180.
A recent PLoS Medicine study by Oestergaard et al. has the latest figures on neonatal mortality worldwide
UNICEF has information about progress toward Millennium Development Goal 4
The United Nations Population Fund has more information about safe birth practices
The EquiNam web site describes ongoing work on socioeconomic inequalities in newborn and maternal health in Asia and Africa by some of the study authors
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001180
PMCID: PMC3289606  PMID: 22389634
17.  Psychosocial interventions for supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy 
Background
Tobacco smoking in pregnancy remains one of the few preventable factors associated with complications in pregnancy, stillbirth, low birthweight and preterm birth and has serious long-term implications for women and babies. Smoking in pregnancy is decreasing in high-income countries, but is strongly associated with poverty and increasing in low- to middle-income countries.
Objectives
To assess the effects of smoking cessation interventions during pregnancy on smoking behaviour and perinatal health outcomes.
Search methods
In this fifth update, we searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (1 March 2013), checked reference lists of retrieved studies and contacted trial authors to locate additional unpublished data.
Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials, cluster-randomised trials, randomised cross-over trials, and quasi-randomised controlled trials (with allocation by maternal birth date or hospital record number) of psychosocial smoking cessation interventions during pregnancy.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and trial quality, and extracted data. Direct comparisons were conducted in RevMan, and subgroup analyses and sensitivity analysis were conducted in SPSS.
Main results
Eighty-six trials were included in this updated review, with 77 trials (involving over 29,000 women) providing data on smoking abstinence in late pregnancy.
In separate comparisons, counselling interventions demonstrated a significant effect compared with usual care (27 studies; average risk ratio (RR) 1.44, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19 to 1.75), and a borderline effect compared with less intensive interventions (16 studies; average RR 1.35, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.82). However, a significant effect was only seen in subsets where counselling was provided in conjunction with other strategies. It was unclear whether any type of counselling strategy is more effective than others (one study; RR 1.15, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.53). In studies comparing counselling and usual care (the largest comparison), it was unclear whether interventions prevented smoking relapse among women who had stopped smoking spontaneously in early pregnancy (eight studies; average RR 1.06, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.21). However, a clear effect was seen in smoking abstinence at zero to five months postpartum (10 studies; average RR 1.76, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.95), a borderline effect at six to 11 months (six studies; average RR 1.33, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.77), and a significant effect at 12 to 17 months (two studies, average RR 2.20, 95% CI 1.23 to 3.96), but not in the longer term. In other comparisons, the effect was not significantly different from the null effect for most secondary outcomes, but sample sizes were small.
Incentive-based interventions had the largest effect size compared with a less intensive intervention (one study; RR 3.64, 95% CI 1.84 to 7.23) and an alternative intervention (one study; RR 4.05, 95% CI 1.48 to 11.11).
Feedback interventions demonstrated a significant effect only when compared with usual care and provided in conjunction with other strategies, such as counselling (two studies; average RR 4.39, 95% CI 1.89 to 10.21), but the effect was unclear when compared with a less intensive intervention (two studies; average RR 1.19, 95% CI 0.45 to 3.12).
The effect of health education was unclear when compared with usual care (three studies; average RR 1.51, 95% CI 0.64 to 3.59) or less intensive interventions (two studies; average RR 1.50, 95% CI 0.97 to 2.31).
Social support interventions appeared effective when provided by peers (five studies; average RR 1.49, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.19), but the effect was unclear in a single trial of support provided by partners.
The effects were mixed where the smoking interventions were provided as part of broader interventions to improve maternal health, rather than targeted smoking cessation interventions.
Subgroup analyses on primary outcome for all studies showed the intensity of interventions and comparisons has increased over time, with higher intensity interventions more likely to have higher intensity comparisons. While there was no significant difference, trials where the comparison group received usual care had the largest pooled effect size (37 studies; average RR 1.34, 95% CI 1.25 to 1.44), with lower effect sizes when the comparison group received less intensive interventions (30 studies; average RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.31), or alternative interventions (two studies; average RR 1.26, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.53). More recent studies included in this update had a lower effect size (20 studies; average RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.59), I2= 3%, compared to those in the previous version of the review (50 studies; average RR 1.50, 95% CI 1.30 to 1.73). There were similar effect sizes in trials with biochemically validated smoking abstinence (49 studies; average RR 1.43, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.67) and those with self-reported abstinence (20 studies; average RR 1.48, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.87). There was no significant difference between trials implemented by researchers (efficacy studies), and those implemented by routine pregnancy staff (effectiveness studies), however the effect was unclear in three dissemination trials of counselling interventions where the focus on the intervention was at an organisational level (average RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.37 to 2.50). The pooled effects were similar in interventions provided for women with predominantly low socio-economic status (44 studies; average RR 1.41, 95% CI 1.19 to 1.66), compared to other women (26 studies; average RR 1.47, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.79); though the effect was unclear in interventions among women from ethnic minority groups (five studies; average RR 1.08, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.40) and aboriginal women (two studies; average RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.06 to 2.67). Importantly, pooled results demonstrated that women who received psychosocial interventions had an 18% reduction in preterm births (14 studies; average RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.96), and infants born with low birthweight (14 studies; average RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.94). There did not appear to be any adverse effects from the psychosocial interventions, and three studies measured an improvement in women’s psychological wellbeing.
Authors’ conclusions
Psychosocial interventions to support women to stop smoking in pregnancy can increase the proportion of women who stop smoking in late pregnancy, and reduce low birthweight and preterm births.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001055.pub4
PMCID: PMC4022453  PMID: 24154953
18.  Effectiveness of earlier antenatal screening for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia in primary care: cluster randomised trial 
Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of offering antenatal screening for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia in primary care as a way of facilitating earlier uptake of screening.
Design Partial factorial cluster randomised controlled trial.
Setting 25 UK general practices from deprived inner city areas.
Participants Anonymised data on all pregnant women attending participating practices during a six month period before randomisation and a seven month period after randomisation. This included 1708 eligible women.
Intervention Practices were randomised to three groups for seven months: parallel testing in general practice (tests for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia offered to both parents when pregnancy was first reported); sequential testing in general practice (tests offered to mothers when pregnancy was first reported, and subsequently to the partners of women who were found to be carriers); and midwife care (tests offered to mothers at first consultation with a midwife).
Main outcome measures The primary outcome (available for all women) was the proportion of eligible women screened before 10 weeks’ (70 days’) gestation. Secondary outcomes were an offer of screening to women before 10 weeks’ gestation, gestational age at testing, mean interval from first visit to the general practice visit to screening, and women’s knowledge of the carrier status of their baby’s father before 77 days’ (11 weeks’) gestation. The study was designed to detect a 20% absolute increase in screening uptake. Cluster level analyses were adjusted for age group, parity, ethnic group, primary care organisation, and number of general practitioners per practice.
Results Data were analysed for 1708 eligible women. In the midwife care arm, 2% (9/441) of women were screened before 10 weeks’ gestation compared with 24% (161/677) in the GP parallel testing arm and 28% (167/590) in the GP sequential testing arm. The estimated adjusted difference between the midwife care and GP parallel testing arms was 16.5% (95% confidence interval 7.1% to 25.8%; P=0.002) and between the midwife care and GP sequential testing arms was 27.8% (14.8% to 40.7%; P<0.001). By 26 weeks’ gestation the proportion of women screened across the three trial arms was similar (81%). The proportion of women who knew the carrier status of the baby’s father by 11 weeks’ gestation was 0% (0/441) in the midwife care arm, 2% (13/677) in the GP parallel testing arm (P=0.003), and 1% (3/590) in the GP sequential testing arm (P=0.374).
Conclusion Offering antenatal screening for sickle cell disease and thalassaemia as part of consultations for pregnancy confirmation in primary care increases the proportion of women screened before 10 weeks’ gestation. Even with intervention, however, only a minority of women were screened before 10 weeks. Additional interventions should be considered to achieve testing early in pregnancy for most women wanting such tests so that couples with affected pregnancies have less time pressure to choose options, which may include termination of the pregnancy.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN00677850.
doi:10.1136/bmj.c5132
PMCID: PMC2950261  PMID: 20923841
19.  The design of a community lifestyle programme to improve the physical and psychological well-being of pregnant women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:284.
Background
Obesity is a global public health issue. Having a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more (classifying a person as obese) at the start of pregnancy is a significant risk factor for maternal and fetal morbidity. There is a dearth of evidence to inform suitable inteventions to support pregnant women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more. Here we describe a study protocol to test the feasibility of a variety of potential healthy lifestyle interventions for pregnant women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more in a community based programme.
Methods/Design
Four hundred women will be approached to attend a 10-week community lifestyle programme. The programme will be provided as a supplement to standard antenatal care. The programme is multi-faceted, aimed at equipping participants with the skills and knowledge needed to adopt healthy behaviours. The social (cognitive) learning theory will be used as a tool to encourage behaviour change, the behaviour change techniques are underpinned by five theoretical components; self-efficacy, outcome expectancies, goal setting, feedback and positive reinforcement.
The main outcomes are pregnancy weight gain and caesarean section rate. Other important outcomes include clinical outcomes (e.g., birth weight) and psychological outcomes (e.g., well-being). Secondary outcomes include women's experience of pregnancy and health care services, amount of physical activity, food intake and the suitability of the intervention components.
A prospective study using quantitative and qualitative methods will inform the feasibility of implementing the community lifestyle programme with pregnant women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more. Mixed methods of data collection will be used, including diaries, focus groups/interviews, pedometers, validated and specifically designed questionnaires, a programme register, weight gain during pregnancy and perinatal outcome data.
Discussion
Findings from this current feasibility study will inform future interventions and NHS services and add to the evidence-base by providing information about the experiences of pregnant women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or more undertaking a community lifestyle programme. The study will lead on to a randomised control trial of a suitable intervention to improve the pregnancy outcomes of this target group.
Trail Registration
ISRCTN29860479.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-284
PMCID: PMC2887821  PMID: 20507580
20.  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
21.  Evaluation of a Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial of a Package of Community-Based Maternal and Newborn Interventions in Mirzapur, Bangladesh 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9696.
Background
To evaluate a delivery strategy for newborn interventions in rural Bangladesh.
Methods
A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted in Mirzapur, Bangladesh. Twelve unions were randomized to intervention or comparison arm. All women of reproductive age were eligible to participate. In the intervention arm, community health workers identified pregnant women; made two antenatal home visits to promote birth and newborn care preparedness; made four postnatal home visits to negotiate preventive care practices and to assess newborns for illness; and referred sick neonates to a hospital and facilitated compliance. Primary outcome measures were antenatal and immediate newborn care behaviours, knowledge of danger signs, care seeking for neonatal complications, and neonatal mortality.
Findings
A total of 4616 and 5241 live births were recorded from 9987 and 11153 participants in the intervention and comparison arm, respectively. High coverage of antenatal (91% visited twice) and postnatal (69% visited on days 0 or 1) home visitations was achieved. Indicators of care practices and knowledge of maternal and neonatal danger signs improved. Adjusted mortality hazard ratio in the intervention arm, compared to the comparison arm, was 1.02 (95% CI: 0.80–1.30) at baseline and 0.87 (95% CI: 0.68–1.12) at endline. Primary causes of death were birth asphyxia (49%) and prematurity (26%). No adverse events associated with interventions were reported.
Conclusion
Lack of evidence for mortality impact despite high program coverage and quality assurance of implementation, and improvements in targeted newborn care practices suggests the intervention did not adequately address risk factors for mortality. The level and cause-structure of neonatal mortality in the local population must be considered in developing interventions. Programs must ensure skilled care during childbirth, including management of birth asphyxia and prematurity, and curative postnatal care during the first two days of life, in addition to essential newborn care and infection prevention and management.
Trial Registration
Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00198627
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009696
PMCID: PMC2844410  PMID: 20352087
22.  Interventions for promoting smoking cessation during pregnancy 
Background
Tobacco smoking in pregnancy remains one of the few preventable factors associated with complications in pregnancy, low birthweight, preterm birth and has serious long-term health implications for women and babies. Smoking in pregnancy is decreasing in high-income countries and increasing in low- to middle-income countries and is strongly associated with poverty, low educational attainment, poor social support and psychological illness.
Objectives
To assess the effects of smoking cessation interventions during pregnancy on smoking behaviour and perinatal health outcomes.
Search methods
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (June 2008), the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group’s Trials Register (June 2008), EMBASE, PsycLIT, and CINAHL (all from January 2003 to June 2008). We contacted trial authors to locate additional unpublished data.
Selection criteria
Randomised controlled trials where smoking cessation during pregnancy was a primary aim of the intervention.
Data collection and analysis
Trials were identified and data extracted by one person and checked by a second. Subgroup analysis was conducted to assess the effect of risk of trial bias, intensity of the intervention and main intervention strategy used.
Main results
Seventy-two trials are included. Fifty-six randomised controlled trials (over 20,000 pregnant women) and nine cluster-randomised trials (over 5000 pregnant women) provided data on smoking cessation outcomes.
There was a significant reduction in smoking in late pregnancy following interventions (risk ratio (RR) 0.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.93 to 0.96), an absolute difference of six in 100 women who stopped smoking during pregnancy. However, there is significant heterogeneity in the combined data (I2 > 60%). In the trials with the lowest risk of bias, the interventions had less effect (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.94 to 0.99), and lower heterogeneity (I2 = 36%). Eight trials of smoking relapse prevention (over 1000 women) showed no statistically significant reduction in relapse.
Smoking cessation interventions reduced low birthweight (RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.73 to 0.95) and preterm birth (RR 0.86, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.98), and there was a 53.91g (95% CI 10.44 g to 95.38 g) increase in mean birthweight. There were no statistically significant differences in neonatal intensive care unit admissions, very low birthweight, stillbirths, perinatal or neonatal mortality but these analyses had very limited power.
Authors’ conclusions
Smoking cessation interventions in pregnancy reduce the proportion of women who continue to smoke in late pregnancy, and reduce low birthweight and preterm birth. Smoking cessation interventions in pregnancy need to be implemented in all maternity care settings. Given the difficulty many pregnant women addicted to tobacco have quitting during pregnancy, population-based measures to reduce smoking and social inequalities should be supported.
doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001055.pub3
PMCID: PMC4090746  PMID: 19588322
Pregnancy; Infant, Low Birth Weight; Infant, Newborn; Obstetric Labor, Premature [prevention & control]; Patient Education as Topic; Pregnancy Outcome; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Smoking Cessation [methods]; Female; Humans
23.  Community interventions to reduce child mortality in Dhanusha, Nepal: study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial 
Trials  2011;12:136.
Background
Neonatal mortality remains high in rural Nepal. Previous work suggests that local women's groups can effect significant improvement through community mobilisation. The possibility of identification and management of newborn infections by community-based workers has also arisen.
Methods/Design
The objective of this trial is to evaluate the effects on newborn health of two community-based interventions involving Female Community Health Volunteers.
MIRA Dhanusha community groups: a participatory intervention with women's groups. MIRA Dhanusha sepsis management: training of community volunteers in the recognition and management of neonatal sepsis.
The study design is a cluster randomized controlled trial involving 60 village development committee clusters allocated 1:1 to two interventions in a factorial design.
MIRA Dhanusha community groups: Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs) are supported in convening monthly women's groups. Nine groups per cluster (270 in total) work through two action research cycles in which they (i) identify local issues around maternity, newborn health and nutrition, (ii) prioritise key problems, (iii) develop strategies to address them, (iv) implement the strategies, and (v) evaluate their success. Cycle 1 focuses on maternal and newborn health and cycle 2 on nutrition in pregnancy and infancy and associated postpartum care practices.
MIRA Dhanusha sepsis management: FCHVs are trained to care for vulnerable newborn infants. They (i) identify local births, (ii) identify low birth weight infants, (iii) identify possible newborn infection, (iv) manage the process of treatment with oral antibiotics and referral to a health facility to receive parenteral gentamicin, and (v) follow up infants and support families.
Primary outcome: neonatal mortality rates. Secondary outcomes: MIRA Dhanusha community group: stillbirth, infant and under-two mortality rates, care practices and health care seeking behaviour, maternal diet, breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, maternal and under-2 anthropometric status. MIRA Dhanusha sepsis management: identification and treatment of neonatal sepsis by community health volunteers, infection-specific neonatal mortality.
Trial Registration no
ISRCTN: ISRCTN87820538
doi:10.1186/1745-6215-12-136
PMCID: PMC3130670  PMID: 21635791
24.  Local understandings of care during delivery and postnatal period to inform home based package of newborn care interventions in rural Ethiopia: a qualitative study 
Background
Despite a substantial decrease in child mortality in Ethiopia over the past decade, neonatal mortality remains unchanged (37/1000 live-births). This paper describes a qualitative study on beliefs and practices on immediate newborn and postnatal care in four rural communities of Ethiopia conducted to inform development of a package of community-based interventions targeting newborns.
Methods
The study team conducted eight key informant interviews (KII) with grandmothers, 27 in-depth interviews (IDI) with mothers; seven IDI with traditional birth attendants (TBA) and 15IDI with fathers, from four purposively selected communities located in Sidama Zone of Southern Nationalities, Nations, and Peoples (SNNP) Region and in East Shewa and West Arsi Zones of Oromia Region.
Results
In the study communities deliveries occurred at home. After cutting the umbilical cord, the baby is put to the side of the mother, not uncommonly with no cloth covering. This is largely due to attendants focusing on delivery of the placenta which is reinforced by the belief that the placenta is the ‘house’ or ‘blanket’ of the baby and that any “harm” caused to the placenta will transfer to the newborn. Applying butter or ointment to the cord “to speed drying” is common practice. Initiation of breastfeeding is often delayed and women commonly report discarding colostrum before initiating breastfeeding. Sub-optimal breastfeeding practices continue, due to perceived inadequate maternal nutrition and breast milk often leading to the provision of herbal drinks. Poor thermal care is also demonstrated through lack of continued skin-to-skin contact, exposure of newborns to smoke, frequent bathing—often with cold water baths for low-birth weight or small babies; and, poor hygienic practices are reported, particularly hand washing prior to contact with the newborn.
Conclusion
Cultural beliefs and newborn care practices do not conform to recommended standards. Local perspectives related to newborn care practices should inform behaviour change messages. Such messages should target mothers, grandmothers, TBAs, other female family members and fathers.
doi:10.1186/1472-698X-14-17
PMCID: PMC4037276  PMID: 24885760
Ethiopia; Newborn care; Qualitative methods; Cultural beliefs
25.  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

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