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      Effects of birth spacing on maternal, perinatal, infant, and child health: a systematic review of causal mechanisms.

      Studies in family planning

      Birth Intervals, Causality, Child, Child Welfare, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Maternal Welfare, Pregnancy, Risk Factors

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          Abstract

          This systematic review of 58 observational studies identified hypothetical causal mechanisms explaining the effects of short and long intervals between pregnancies on maternal, perinatal, infant, and child health, and critically examined the scientific evidence for each causal mechanism hypothesized. The following hypothetical causal mechanisms for explaining the association between short intervals and adverse outcomes were identified: maternal nutritional depletion, folate depletion, cervical insufficiency, vertical transmission of infections, suboptimal lactation related to breastfeeding-pregnancy overlap, sibling competition, transmission of infectious diseases among siblings, incomplete healing of uterine scar from previous cesarean delivery, and abnormal remodeling of endometrial blood vessels. Women's physiological regression is the only hypothetical causal mechanism that has been proposed to explain the association between long intervals and adverse outcomes. We found growing evidence supporting most of these hypotheses.

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          The length of the cervix and the risk of spontaneous premature delivery. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal Fetal Medicine Unit Network.

          The role of the cervix in the pathogenesis of premature delivery is controversial. In a prospective, multicenter study of pregnant women, we used vaginal ultrasonography to measure the length of the cervix; we also documented the incidence of spontaneous delivery before 35 weeks' gestation. At 10 university-affiliated prenatal clinics, we performed vaginal ultrasonography at approximately 24 and 28 weeks of gestation in women with singleton pregnancies. We then assessed the relation between the length of the cervix and the risk of spontaneous preterm delivery. We examined 2915 women at approximately 24 weeks of gestation and 2531 of these women again at approximately 28 weeks. Spontaneous preterm delivery (at less than 35 weeks) occurred in 126 of the women (4.3 percent) examined at 24 weeks. The length of the cervix was normally distributed at 24 and 28 weeks (mean [+/- SD], 35.2 +/- 8.3 mm and 33.7 +/- 8.5 mm, respectively). The relative risk of preterm delivery increased as the length of the cervix decreased. When women with shorter cervixes at 24 weeks were compared with women with values above the 75th percentile, the relative risks of preterm delivery among the women with shorter cervixes were as follows: 1.98 for cervical lengths at or below the 75th percentile (40 mm), 2.35 for lengths at or below the 50th percentile (35 mm), 3.79 for lengths at or below the 25th percentile (30 mm), 6.19 for lengths at or below the 10th percentile (26 mm), 9.49 for lengths at or below the 5th percentile (22 mm), and 13.99 for lengths at or below the 1st percentile (13 mm) (P < 0.001 for values at or below the 50th percentile; P = 0.008 for values at or below the 75th percentile). For the lengths measured at 28 weeks, the corresponding relative risks were 2.80, 3.52, 5.39, 9.57, 13.88, and 24.94 (P < 0.001 for values at or below the 50th percentile; P = 0.003 for values at the 75th percentile). The risk of spontaneous preterm delivery is increased in women who are found to have a short cervix by vaginal ultrasonography during pregnancy.
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            Meta-analysis Spurious precision? Meta-analysis of observational studies

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              Effects of birth spacing on maternal health: a systematic review.

              The objective of the study was to explore the association between birth spacing and risk of adverse maternal outcomes. The study was a systematic review of observational studies that examined the relationship between interpregnancy or birth intervals and adverse maternal outcomes. Twenty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Overall, long interpregnancy intervals, possibly longer than 5 years, are independently associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia. There is emerging evidence that women with long interpregnancy intervals are at increased risk for labor dystocia and that short intervals are associated with increased risks of uterine rupture in women attempting a vaginal birth after previous cesarean delivery and uteroplacental bleeding disorders (placental abruption and placenta previa). Less clear is the association between short intervals and other adverse outcomes such as maternal death and anemia. Long interpregnancy intervals are independently associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia. Both short and long interpregnancy intervals seem to be related to other adverse maternal outcomes, but more research is needed.
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