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1.  Preconception maternal nutrition: a multi-site randomized controlled trial 
Background
Research directed to optimizing maternal nutrition commencing prior to conception remains very limited, despite suggestive evidence of its importance in addition to ensuring an optimal nutrition environment in the periconceptional period and throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.
Methods/Study design
This is an individually randomized controlled trial of the impact on birth length (primary outcome) of the time at which a maternal nutrition intervention is commenced: Arm 1: ≥ 3 mo preconception vs. Arm 2: 12-14 wk gestation vs. Arm 3: none.
192 (derived from 480) randomized mothers and living offspring in each arm in each of four research sites (Guatemala, India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo). The intervention is a daily 20 g lipid-based (118 kcal) multi-micronutient (MMN) supplement. Women randomized to receive this intervention with body mass index (BMI) <20 or whose gestational weight gain is low will receive an additional 300 kcal/d as a balanced energy-protein supplement. Researchers will visit homes biweekly to deliver intervention and monitor compliance, pregnancy status and morbidity; ensure prenatal and delivery care; and promote breast feeding. The primary outcome is birth length. Secondary outcomes include: fetal length at 12 and 34 wk; incidence of low birth weight (LBW); neonatal/infant anthropometry 0-6 mo of age; infectious disease morbidity; maternal, fetal, newborn, and infant epigenetics; maternal and infant nutritional status; maternal and infant microbiome; gut inflammatory biomarkers and bioactive and nutritive compounds in breast milk. The primary analysis will compare birth Length-for-Age Z-score (LAZ) among trial arms (independently for each site, estimated effect size: 0.35). Additional statistical analyses will examine the secondary outcomes and a pooled analysis of data from all sites.
Discussion
Positive results of this trial will support a paradigm shift in attention to nutrition of all females of child-bearing age.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01883193.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-111
PMCID: PMC4000057  PMID: 24650219
Preconception; Maternal; Nutrition; Birth length; Epigenetics; Microbiome
2.  First look: a cluster-randomized trial of ultrasound to improve pregnancy outcomes in low income country settings 
Background
In high-resource settings, obstetric ultrasound is a standard component of prenatal care used to identify pregnancy complications and to establish an accurate gestational age in order to improve obstetric care. Whether or not ultrasound use will improve care and ultimately pregnancy outcomes in low-resource settings is unknown.
Methods/Design
This multi-country cluster randomized trial will assess the impact of antenatal ultrasound screening performed by health care staff on a composite outcome consisting of maternal mortality and maternal near-miss, stillbirth and neonatal mortality in low-resource community settings. The trial will utilize an existing research infrastructure, the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research with sites in Pakistan, Kenya, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guatemala. A maternal and newborn health registry in defined geographic areas which documents all pregnancies and their outcomes to 6 weeks post-delivery will provide population-based rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, stillbirth, neonatal mortality and morbidity, and health care utilization for study clusters. A total of 58 study clusters each with a health center and about 500 births per year will be randomized (29 intervention and 29 control). The intervention includes training of health workers (e.g., nurses, midwives, clinical officers) to perform ultrasound examinations during antenatal care, generally at 18–22 and at 32–36 weeks for each subject. Women who are identified as having a complication of pregnancy will be referred to a hospital for appropriate care. Finally, the intervention includes community sensitization activities to inform women and their families of the availability of ultrasound at the antenatal care clinic and training in emergency obstetric and neonatal care at referral facilities.
Discussion
In summary, our trial will evaluate whether introduction of ultrasound during antenatal care improves pregnancy outcomes in rural, low-resource settings. The intervention includes training for ultrasound-naïve providers in basic obstetric ultrasonography and then enabling these trainees to use ultrasound to screen for pregnancy complications in primary antenatal care clinics and to refer appropriately.
Trial registration
Clinicaltrials.gov (NCT # 01990625)
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-73
PMCID: PMC3996090  PMID: 24533878
Maternal mortality; Maternal near miss; Perinatal mortality; Obstetric ultrasound; Low-income countries
3.  A conference report on prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries 
Objective
To evaluate the evidence for prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries and to make recommendations regarding implementation and further research.
Methods
Studies and meta-analyses on prenatal corticosteroids relevant to low- and middle-income countries were identified and reviewed at the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Project (MCHIP) Antenatal Corticosteroid Conference held in Washington on October 19, 2010.
Results
There is strong evidence regarding the effectiveness of prenatal corticosteroid use in hospitals in high- and middle-income countries, usually in settings with high-level newborn care. For births occurring in hospitals in low-income countries without high-level neonatal care or for births outside hospitals, no studies have been conducted to evaluate prenatal corticosteroid use. The efficacy and safety of prenatal corticosteroid use in these settings must be evaluated.
Conclusions
The conference working group recommended expanding the use of prenatal corticosteroids in hospitals with high-level newborn care in low-income countries. For other low-income country settings, further research regarding efficacy and safety should precede the widespread introduction of prenatal corticosteroids.
doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.07.017
PMCID: PMC3910250  PMID: 21930269
Low-resource countries; Prenatal corticosteroids; Preterm birth
4.  EVALUATION OF MEAT AS A FIRST COMPLEMENTARY FOOD FOR BREASTFED INFANTS: IMPACT ON IRON INTAKE & GROWTH 
Nutrition reviews  2011;69(0 1):10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00434.x.
The rationale is considered for promoting the availability of local, affordable, non-fortified food sources of bioavailable iron in developing countries. Intakes of iron from the regular consumption of meat from the age of six months are evaluated with respect to physiological requirements. The paper includes a description of two major randomized controlled trials of meat as a first and regular complementary food that are currently in progress. These trials involve poor communities in Guatemala, Pakistan, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and China.
doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00434.x
PMCID: PMC3875190  PMID: 22043884
iron; meat; complementary feeding
5.  A combined community- and facility-based approach to improve pregnancy outcomes in low-resource settings: a Global Network cluster randomized trial 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:215.
Background
Fetal and neonatal mortality rates in low-income countries are at least 10-fold greater than in high-income countries. These differences have been related to poor access to and poor quality of obstetric and neonatal care.
Methods
This trial tested the hypothesis that teams of health care providers, administrators and local residents can address the problem of limited access to quality obstetric and neonatal care and lead to a reduction in perinatal mortality in intervention compared to control locations. In seven geographic areas in five low-income and one middle-income country, most with high perinatal mortality rates and substantial numbers of home deliveries, we performed a cluster randomized non-masked trial of a package of interventions that included community mobilization focusing on birth planning and hospital transport, community birth attendant training in problem recognition, and facility staff training in the management of obstetric and neonatal emergencies. The primary outcome was perinatal mortality at ≥28 weeks gestation or birth weight ≥1000 g.
Results
Despite extensive effort in all sites in each of the three intervention areas, no differences emerged in the primary or any secondary outcome between the intervention and control clusters. In both groups, the mean perinatal mortality was 40.1/1,000 births (P = 0.9996). Neither were there differences between the two groups in outcomes in the last six months of the project, in the year following intervention cessation, nor in the clusters that best implemented the intervention.
Conclusions
This cluster randomized comprehensive, large-scale, multi-sector intervention did not result in detectable impact on the proposed outcomes. While this does not negate the importance of these interventions, we expect that achieving improvement in pregnancy outcomes in these settings will require substantially more obstetric and neonatal care infrastructure than was available at the sites during this trial, and without them provider training and community mobilization will not be sufficient. Our results highlight the critical importance of evaluating outcomes in randomized trials, as interventions that should be effective may not be.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01073488
doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-215
PMCID: PMC3853358  PMID: 24090370
Stillbirth; Neonatal mortality; Maternal mortality; Emergency obstetric care
6.  Assessment of Obstetric and Neonatal Health Services in Developing Country Health Facilities 
American journal of perinatology  2013;30(9):787-794.
Objective
To describe the staffing and availability of medical equipment and medications and the performance of procedures at health facilities providing maternal and neonatal care at African, Asian, and Latin American sites participating in a multicenter trial to improve emergency obstetric/neonatal care in communities with high maternal and perinatal mortality.
Study Design
In 2009, prior to intervention, we surveyed 136 hospitals and 228 clinics in 7 sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America regarding staffing, availability of equipment/ medications, and procedures including cesarean section.
Results
The coverage of physicians and nurses/midwives was poor in Africa and Latin America. In Africa, only 20% of hospitals had full-time physicians. Only 70% of hospitals in Africa and Asia had performed cesarean sections in the last 6 months. Oxygen was unavailable in 40% of African hospitals and 17% of Asian hospitals. Blood was unavailable in 80% of African and Asian hospitals.
Conclusions
Assuming that adequate facility services are necessary to improve pregnancy outcomes, it is not surprising that maternal and perinatal mortality rates in the areas surveyed are high. The data presented emphasize that to reduce mortality in these areas, resources that result in improved staffing and sufficient equipment, supplies, and medication, along with training, are required.
doi:10.1055/s-0032-1333409
PMCID: PMC3664648  PMID: 23329566
emergency obstetric and neonatal care; developing countries; perinatal mortality
7.  The Maternal and Newborn Health Registry Study of the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research 
Objective
To implement a vital statistics registry system to register pregnant women and document birth outcomes in the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research sites in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Methods
The Global Network sites began a prospective population-based pregnancy registry to identify all pregnant women and record pregnancy outcomes up to 42 days post-delivery in more than 100 defined low-resource geographic areas (clusters). Pregnant women were registered during pregnancy, with 42-day maternal and neonatal follow-up recorded—including care received during the pregnancy and postpartum periods. Recorded outcomes included stillbirth, neonatal mortality, and maternal mortality rates.
Results
In 2010, 72 848 pregnant women were enrolled and 6-week follow-up was obtained for 97.8%. Across sites, 40.7%, 24.8%, and 34.5% of births occurred in a hospital, health center, and home setting, respectively. The mean neonatal mortality rate was 23 per 1000 live births, ranging from 8.2 to 48.5 per 1000 live births. The mean stillbirth rate ranged from 13.7 to 54.4 per 1000 births.
Conclusion
The registry is an ongoing study to assess the impact of interventions and trends regarding pregnancy outcomes and measures of care to inform public health.
doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.04.022
PMCID: PMC3417109  PMID: 22738806
Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Perinatal mortality; Pregnancy; Registry; Stillbirth
8.  Antenatal corticosteroids trial in preterm births to increase neonatal survival in developing countries: study protocol 
Reproductive Health  2012;9:22.
Background
Preterm birth is a major cause of neonatal mortality, responsible for 28% of neonatal deaths overall. The administration of antenatal corticosteroids to women at high risk of preterm birth is a powerful perinatal intervention to reduce neonatal mortality in resource rich environments. The effect of antenatal steroids to reduce mortality and morbidity among preterm infants in hospital settings in developed countries with high utilization is well established, yet they are not routinely used in developing countries. The impact of increasing antenatal steroid use in hospital or community settings with low utilization rates and high infant mortality among premature infants due to lack of specialized services has not been well researched. There is currently no clear evidence about the safety of antenatal corticosteroid use for community-level births.
Methods
We hypothesize that a multi country, two-arm, parallel cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether a multifaceted intervention to increase the use of antenatal corticosteroids, including components to improve the identification of pregnancies at high risk of preterm birth and providing and facilitating the appropriate use of steroids, will reduce neonatal mortality at 28 days of life in preterm newborns, compared with the standard delivery of care in selected populations of six countries. 102 clusters in Argentina, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Pakistan, and Zambia will be randomized, and around 60,000 women and newborns will be enrolled. Kits containing vials of dexamethasone, syringes, gloves, and instructions for administration will be distributed. Improving the identification of women at high risk of preterm birth will be done by (1) diffusing recommendations for antenatal corticosteroids use to health providers, (2) training health providers on identification of women at high risk of preterm birth, (3) providing reminders to health providers on the use of the kits, and (4) using a color-coded tape to measure uterine height to estimate gestational age in women with unknown gestational age. In both intervention and control clusters, health providers will be trained in essential newborn care for low birth weight babies. The primary outcome is neonatal mortality at 28 days of life in preterm infants.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov. Identifier: NCT01084096
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-9-22
PMCID: PMC3477119  PMID: 22992312
Neonatal mortality; Antenatal corticosteroids; Implementation research; Preterm birth
9.  Epidemiology of stillbirth in low-middle income countries: A Global Network Study 
Objective
To determine population-based stillbirth rates and to determine whether the timing and maturity of the stillbirths suggest a high proportion of potentially preventable deaths.
Design
Prospective observational study.
Setting
Communities in six low-income countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Guatemala, India, and Pakistan) and one site in a mid-income country (Argentina).
Population
Pregnant women residing in the study communities.
Methods
Over a five-year period, in selected catchment areas, using multiple methodologies, trained study staff obtained pregnancy outcomes on each delivery in their area.
Main outcome measures
Pregnancy outcome, stillbirth characteristics.
Results
Outcomes of 195 400 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 32 per 1 000 in Pakistan to 8 per 1 000 births in Argentina. Three-fourths (76%) of stillbirth off-spring were not macerated, 63% were ≥37 weeks and 48% weighed 2 500g or more. Across all sites, women with no education, of high and low parity, of older age, and without access to antenatal care were at significantly greater risk for stillbirth (p<0.001). Compared to those delivered by a physician, women delivered by nurses and traditional birth attendants had a lower risk of stillbirth.
Conclusions
In these low-middle income countries, most stillbirth offspring were not macerated, were reported as ≥37 weeks’ gestation, and almost half weighed at least 2 500g. With access to better medical care, especially in the intrapartum period, many of these stillbirths could likely be prevented.
doi:10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01275.x
PMCID: PMC3412613  PMID: 21916854
Developing countries; intrapartum stillbirth; stillbirth
10.  Home birth attendants in low income countries: who are they and what do they do? 
Background
Nearly half the world’s babies are born at home. We sought to evaluate the training, knowledge, skills, and access to medical equipment and testing for home birth attendants across 7 international sites.
Methods
Face-to-face interviews were done by trained interviewers to assess level of training, knowledge and practices regarding care during the antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum periods. The survey was administered to a sample of birth attendants conducting home or out-of-facility deliveries in 7 sites in 6 countries (India, Pakistan, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Zambia).
Results
A total of 1226 home birth attendants were surveyed. Less than half the birth attendants were literate. Eighty percent had one month or less of formal training. Most home birth attendants did not have basic equipment (e.g., blood pressure apparatus, stethoscope, infant bag and mask manual resuscitator). Reporting of births and maternal and neonatal deaths to government agencies was low. Indian auxilliary nurse midwives, who perform some home but mainly clinic births, were far better trained and differed in many characteristics from the birth attendants who only performed deliveries at home.
Conclusions
Home birth attendants in low-income countries were often illiterate, could not read numbers and had little formal training. Most had few of the skills or access to tests, medications and equipment that are necessary to reduce maternal, fetal or neonatal mortality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-34
PMCID: PMC3493311  PMID: 22583622
Home births; Traditional birth attendants; Perinatal mortality
11.  Complementary feeding: a Global Network cluster randomized controlled trial 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:4.
Background
Inadequate and inappropriate complementary feeding are major factors contributing to excess morbidity and mortality in young children in low resource settings. Animal source foods in particular are cited as essential to achieve micronutrient requirements. The efficacy of the recommendation for regular meat consumption, however, has not been systematically evaluated.
Methods/Design
A cluster randomized efficacy trial was designed to test the hypothesis that 12 months of daily intake of beef added as a complementary food would result in greater linear growth velocity than a micronutrient fortified equi-caloric rice-soy cereal supplement. The study is being conducted in 4 sites of the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research located in Guatemala, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia in communities with toddler stunting rates of at least 20%. Five clusters per country were randomized to each of the food arms, with 30 infants in each cluster. The daily meat or cereal supplement was delivered to the home by community coordinators, starting when the infants were 6 months of age and continuing through 18 months. All participating mothers received nutrition education messages to enhance complementary feeding practices delivered by study coordinators and through posters at the local health center. Outcome measures, obtained at 6, 9, 12, and 18 months by a separate assessment team, included anthropometry; dietary variety and diversity scores; biomarkers of iron, zinc and Vitamin B12 status (18 months); neurocognitive development (12 and 18 months); and incidence of infectious morbidity throughout the trial. The trial was supervised by a trial steering committee, and an independent data monitoring committee provided oversight for the safety and conduct of the trial.
Discussion
Findings from this trial will test the efficacy of daily intake of meat commencing at age 6 months and, if beneficial, will provide a strong rationale for global efforts to enhance local supplies of meat as a complementary food for young children.
Trial registration
NCT01084109
doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-4
PMCID: PMC3032692  PMID: 21232139
12.  Communities, birth attendants and health facilities: a continuum of emergency maternal and newborn care (the global network's EmONC trial) 
Background
Maternal and newborn mortality rates remain unacceptably high, especially where the majority of births occur in home settings or in facilities with inadequate resources. The introduction of emergency obstetric and newborn care services has been proposed by several organizations in order to improve pregnancy outcomes. However, the effectiveness of emergency obstetric and neonatal care services has never been proven. Also unproven is the effectiveness of community mobilization and community birth attendant training to improve pregnancy outcomes.
Methods/Design
We have developed a cluster-randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a comprehensive intervention of community mobilization, birth attendant training and improvement of quality of care in health facilities on perinatal mortality in low and middle-income countries where the majority of births take place in homes or first level care facilities. This trial will take place in 106 clusters (300-500 deliveries per year each) across 7 sites of the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research in Argentina, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Pakistan and Zambia. The trial intervention has three key elements, community mobilization, home-based life saving skills for communities and birth attendants, and training of providers at obstetric facilities to improve quality of care. The primary outcome of the trial is perinatal mortality. Secondary outcomes include rates of stillbirth, 7-day neonatal mortality, maternal death or severe morbidity (including obstetric fistula, eclampsia and obstetrical sepsis) and 28-day neonatal mortality.
Discussion
In this trial, we are evaluating a combination of interventions including community mobilization and facility training in an attempt to improve pregnancy outcomes. If successful, the results of this trial will provide important information for policy makers and clinicians as they attempt to improve delivery services for pregnant women and newborns in low-income countries.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01073488
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-82
PMCID: PMC3017016  PMID: 21156060

Results 1-12 (12)