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1.  A Case-Control Study of Maternal Periconceptual and Pregnancy Recreational Drug Use and Fetal Malformation Using Hair Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111038.
Maternal recreational drug use may be associated with the development of fetal malformations such as gastroschisis, brain and limb defects, the aetiology due to vascular disruption during organogenesis. Using forensic hair analysis we reported evidence of recreational drug use in 18% of women with a fetal gastroschisis. Here we investigate this association in a variety of fetal malformations using the same method.
In a multi-centre study, women with normal pregnancies (controls) and those with fetal abnormalities (cases) gave informed consent for hair analysis for recreational drug metabolites using mass spectrometry. Hair samples cut at the root were tested in sections corresponding to 3 month time periods (pre and periconceptual period).
Women whose fetus had gastroschisis, compared to women with a normal control fetus, were younger (mean age 23.78±SD4.79 years, 18–37 vs 29.79±SD6 years, 18–42, p = 0.00001), were more likely to have evidence of recreational drug use (15, 25.4% vs 21, 13%, OR2.27, 95thCI 1.08–4.78, p = 0.028), and were less likely to report periconceptual folic acid use (31, 53.4% vs 124, 77.5%, OR0.33, 95thCI 0.18–0.63, p = 0.001). Age-matched normal control women were no less likely to test positive for recreational drugs than women whose fetus had gastroschisis. After accounting for all significant factors, only young maternal age remained significantly associated with gastroschisis. Women with a fetus affected by a non-neural tube central nervous system (CNS) anomaly were more likely to test positive for recreational drugs when compared to women whose fetus was normal (7, 35% vs 21, 13%, OR3.59, 95th CI1.20–10.02, p = 0.01).
We demonstrate a significant association between non neural tube CNS anomalies and recreational drug use in the periconceptual period, first or second trimesters, but we cannot confirm this association with gastroschisis. We confirm the association of gastroschisis with young maternal age.
PMCID: PMC4215921  PMID: 25360669
2.  Women’s groups practising participatory learning and action to improve maternal and newborn health in low-resource settings: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
Lancet  2013;381(9879):1736-1746.
Maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain high in many low-income and middle-income countries. Different approaches for the improvement of birth outcomes have been used in community-based interventions, with heterogeneous effects on survival. We assessed the effects of women’s groups practising participatory learning and action, compared with usual care, on birth outcomes in low-resource settings.
We did a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials undertaken in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, and Nepal in which the effects of women’s groups practising participatory learning and action were assessed to identify population-level predictors of effect on maternal mortality, neonatal mortality, and stillbirths. We also reviewed the cost-effectiveness of the women’s group intervention and estimated its potential effect at scale in Countdown countries.
Seven trials (119 428 births) met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses of all trials showed that exposure to women’s groups was associated with a 37% reduction in maternal mortality (odds ratio 0·63, 95% CI 0·32–0·94), a 23% reduction in neonatal mortality (0·77, 0·65–0·90), and a 9% non-significant reduction in stillbirths (0·91, 0·79–1·03), with high heterogeneity for maternal (I2=58·8%, p=0·024) and neonatal results (I2=64·7%, p=0·009). In the meta-regression analyses, the proportion of pregnant women in groups was linearly associated with reduction in both maternal and neonatal mortality (p=0·026 and p=0·011, respectively). A subgroup analysis of the four studies in which at least 30% of pregnant women participated in groups showed a 55% reduction in maternal mortality (0·45, 0·17–0·73) and a 33% reduction in neonatal mortality (0·67, 0·59–0·74). The intervention was cost effective by WHO standards and could save an estimated 283 000 newborn infants and 41 100 mothers per year if implemented in rural areas of 74 Countdown countries.
With the participation of at least a third of pregnant women and adequate population coverage, women’s groups practising participatory learning and action are a cost-effective strategy to improve maternal and neonatal survival in low-resource settings.
Wellcome Trust, Ammalife, and National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for Birmingham and the Black Country programme.
PMCID: PMC3797417  PMID: 23683640
3.  A comparison of clinical officers with medical doctors on outcomes of caesarean section in the developing world: meta-analysis of controlled studies 
Objective To review the effectiveness and safety of clinical officers (healthcare providers trained to perform tasks usually undertaken by doctors) carrying out caesarean section in developing countries compared with doctors.
Design Systematic review with meta-analysis.
Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, BioMed Central, the Reproductive Health Library, and the Science Citation Index (inception-2010) without language restriction.
Study selection Controlled studies.
Data extraction Information was extracted from each selected article on study characteristics, quality, and outcome data. Two independent reviewers extracted data.
Results Six non-randomised controlled studies (16 018 women) evaluated the effectiveness of clinical officers carrying out caesarean section. Meta-analysis found no significant differences between the clinical officers and doctors for maternal death (odds ratio 1.46, 95% confidence interval 0.78 to 2.75; P=0.24) or for perinatal death (1.31, 0.87 to 1.95; P=0.19). The results were heterogeneous, with some studies reporting a higher incidence of both outcomes with clinical officers. Clinical officers were associated with a higher incidence of wound infection (1.58, 1.01 to 2.47; P=0.05) and wound dehiscence (1.89, 1.21 to 2.95; P=0.005). Two studies accounted for confounding factors.
Conclusion Clinical officers and doctors did not differ significantly in key outcomes for caesarean section, but the conclusions are tentative owing to the non-randomised nature of the studies. The increase in wound infection and dehiscence may highlight a particular training need for clinical officers.
PMCID: PMC3272986  PMID: 21571914
4.  Effectiveness of strategies incorporating training and support of traditional birth attendants on perinatal and maternal mortality: meta-analysis 
Objective To assess the effectiveness of strategies incorporating training and support of traditional birth attendants on the outcomes of perinatal, neonatal, and maternal death in developing countries.
Design Systematic review with meta-analysis.
Data sources Medline, Embase, the Allied and Complementary Medicine database, British Nursing Index, Cochrane Library, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, BioMed Central, PsycINFO, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature database, African Index Medicus, Web of Science, Reproductive Health Library, and Science Citation Index (from inception to April 2011), without language restrictions. Search terms were “birth attend*”, “traditional midwife”, “lay birth attendant”, “dais”, and “comadronas”.
Review methods We selected randomised and non-randomised controlled studies with outcomes of perinatal, neonatal, and maternal mortality. Two independent reviewers undertook data extraction. We pooled relative risks separately for the randomised and non-randomised controlled studies, using a random effects model.
Results We identified six cluster randomised controlled trials (n=138 549) and seven non-randomised controlled studies (n=72 225) that investigated strategies incorporating training and support of traditional birth attendants. All six randomised controlled trials found a reduction in adverse perinatal outcomes; our meta-analysis showed significant reductions in perinatal death (relative risk 0.76, 95% confidence interval 0.64 to 0.88, P<0.001; number needed to treat 35, 24 to 70) and neonatal death (0.79, 0.69 to 0.88, P<0.001; 98, 66 to 170). Meta-analysis of the non-randomised studies also showed a significant reduction in perinatal mortality (0.70, 0.57 to 0.84, p<0.001; 48, 32 to 96) and neonatal mortality (0.61, 0.48 to 0.75, P<0.001; 96, 65 to 168). Six studies reported on maternal mortality and our meta-analysis showed a non-significant reduction (three randomised trials, relative risk 0.79, 0.53 to 1.05, P=0.12; three non-randomised studies, 0.80, 0.44 to 1.15, P=0.26).
Conclusion Perinatal and neonatal deaths are significantly reduced with strategies incorporating training and support of traditional birth attendants.
PMCID: PMC3228291  PMID: 22134967

Results 1-4 (4)