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      The effectiveness of antenatal care programmes to reduce infant mortality and preterm birth in socially disadvantaged and vulnerable women in high-income countries: a systematic review


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          Infant mortality has shown a steady decline in recent years but a marked socioeconomic gradient persists. Antenatal care is generally thought to be an effective method of improving pregnancy outcomes, but the effectiveness of specific antenatal care programmes as a means of reducing infant mortality in socioeconomically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of women has not been rigorously evaluated.


          We conducted a systematic review, focusing on evidence from high income countries, to evaluate the effectiveness of alternative models of organising or delivering antenatal care to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of women vs. standard antenatal care. We searched Medline, Embase, Cinahl, PsychINFO, HMIC, CENTRAL, DARE, MIDIRS and a number of online resources to identify relevant randomised and observational studies. We assessed effects on infant mortality and its major medical causes (preterm birth, congenital anomalies and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS))


          We identified 36 distinct eligible studies covering a wide range of interventions, including group antenatal care, clinic-based augmented care, teenage clinics, prenatal substance abuse programmes, home visiting programmes, maternal care coordination and nutritional programmes. Fifteen studies had adequate internal validity: of these, only one was considered to demonstrate a beneficial effect on an outcome of interest. Six interventions were considered 'promising'.


          There was insufficient evidence of adequate quality to recommend routine implementation of any of the programmes as a means of reducing infant mortality in disadvantaged/vulnerable women. Several interventions merit further more rigorous evaluation.

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          Most cited references65

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          Group prenatal care and perinatal outcomes: a randomized controlled trial.

          To determine whether group prenatal care improves pregnancy outcomes, psychosocial function, and patient satisfaction and to examine potential cost differences. A multisite randomized controlled trial was conducted at two university-affiliated hospital prenatal clinics. Pregnant women aged 14-25 years (n=1,047) were randomly assigned to either standard or group care. Women with medical conditions requiring individualized care were excluded from randomization. Group participants received care in a group setting with women having the same expected delivery month. Timing and content of visits followed obstetric guidelines from week 18 through delivery. Each 2-hour prenatal care session included physical assessment, education and skills building, and support through facilitated group discussion. Structured interviews were conducted at study entry, during the third trimester, and postpartum. Mean age of participants was 20.4 years; 80% were African American. Using intent-to-treat analyses, women assigned to group care were significantly less likely to have preterm births compared with those in standard care: 9.8% compared with 13.8%, with no differences in age, parity, education, or income between study conditions. This is equivalent to a risk reduction of 33% (odds ratio 0.67, 95% confidence interval 0.44-0.99, P=.045), or 40 per 1,000 births. Effects were strengthened for African-American women: 10.0% compared with 15.8% (odds ratio 0.59, 95% confidence interval 0.38-0.92, P=.02). Women in group sessions were less likely to have suboptimal prenatal care (P<.01), had significantly better prenatal knowledge (P<.001), felt more ready for labor and delivery (P<.001), and had greater satisfaction with care (P<.001). Breastfeeding initiation was higher in group care: 66.5% compared with 54.6%, P<.001. There were no differences in birth weight nor in costs associated with prenatal care or delivery. Group prenatal care resulted in equal or improved perinatal outcomes at no added cost. ClinicalTrials.gov, www.clinicaltrials.gov, NCT00271960 I.
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            The contribution of preterm birth to infant mortality rates in the United States.

            Although two thirds of infant deaths in the United States occur among infants born preterm (<37 weeks of gestation), only 17% of infant deaths are classified as being attributable to preterm birth with the standard classification of leading causes of death. To address this apparent discrepancy, we sought to estimate more accurately the contribution of preterm birth to infant mortality rates in the United States. We identified the top 20 leading causes of infant death in 2002 in the US linked birth/infant death file. The role of preterm birth for each cause was assessed by determining the proportion of infants who were born preterm for each cause of death and by considering the biological connection between preterm birth and the specific cause of death. Of 27970 records in the linked birth/infant death file for 2002, the 20 leading causes accounted for 22273 deaths (80% of all infant deaths). Among infant deaths attributable to the 20 leading causes, we classified 9596 infant deaths (34.3% of all infant deaths) as attributable to preterm birth. Ninety-five percent of those deaths occurred among infants who were born at <32 weeks of gestation and weighed <1500 g, and two thirds of those deaths occurred during the first 24 hours of life. On the basis of this evaluation, preterm birth is the most frequent cause of infant death in the United States, accounting for at least one third of infant deaths in 2002. The extreme prematurity of most of the infants and their short survival indicate that reducing infant mortality rates requires a comprehensive agenda to identify, to test, and to implement effective strategies for the prevention of preterm birth.
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              Effect of neighbourhood income and maternal education on birth outcomes: a population-based study.

              Maternal socioeconomic status (SES) is an important determinant of inequity in maternal and fetal health. We sought to determine the extent to which associations between adverse birth outcomes and SES can be identified using individual-level measures (maternal level of education) and community-level measures (neighbourhood income). In Quebec, the birth registration form includes a field for the mother's years of education. Using data from birth registration certificates, we identified all births from 1991 to 2000. Using maternal postal codes that can be linked to census enumeration areas, we determined neighbourhood income levels that reflect SES. Lower levels of both maternal education and neighbourhood income were associated with elevated crude risks of preterm birth, small-for-gestational-age (SGA) birth, stillbirth and neonatal and postneonatal death. The effects of maternal education were stronger than, and independent of, those of neighbourhood income. Compared with women in the highest neighbourhood income quintile, women in the lowest quintile were significantly more likely to have a preterm birth (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.14, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.10-1.17), SGA birth (OR 1.18, 95% CI 1.15-1.21) or stillbirth (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.13-1.48); compared with mothers who had completed community college or at least some university, mothers who had not completed high school were significantly more likely to have a preterm birth (adjusted OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.44-1.52), SGA birth (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.82-1.91) or stillbirth (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.36-1.74). Individual and, to a lesser extent, neighbourhood-level SES measures are independent indicators for subpopulations at risk of adverse birth outcomes. Women with lower education levels and those living in poorer neighbourhoods are more vulnerable to adverse birth outcomes and may benefit from heightened clinical vigilance and counselling.

                Author and article information

                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
                BioMed Central
                11 February 2011
                : 11
                : 13
                [1 ]National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford, OX3 7LF, UK
                Copyright ©2011 Hollowell et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 25 November 2010
                : 11 February 2011
                Research Article

                Obstetrics & Gynecology
                Obstetrics & Gynecology


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