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This article is part of the supplement: Global report on preterm birth & stillbirth: the foundation for innovative solutions and improved outcomes

Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Global report on preterm birth and stillbirth (3 of 7): evidence for effectiveness of interventions

Fernando C Barros1, Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta2*, Maneesh Batra3, Thomas N Hansen4, Cesar G Victora5, Craig E Rubens67 and the GAPPS Review Group

Author affiliations

1 Post-Graduate Course in Health and Behaviour, Universidade Catolica de Pelotas, Brazil

2 Division of Women & Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi 74800, Pakistan

3 Divison of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA

4 Seattle Children's, Seattle, Washington, USA

5 Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas 96001-970, Brazil

6 Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth, an initiative of Seattle Children's, Seattle, Washington, USA

7 Department of Pediatrics at University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2010, 10(Suppl 1):S3  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-10-S1-S3

Published: 23 February 2010

Abstract

Introduction

Interventions directed toward mothers before and during pregnancy and childbirth may help reduce preterm births and stillbirths. Survival of preterm newborns may also be improved with interventions given during these times or soon after birth. This comprehensive review assesses existing interventions for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Methods

Approximately 2,000 intervention studies were systematically evaluated through December 31, 2008. They addressed preterm birth or low birth weight; stillbirth or perinatal mortality; and management of preterm newborns. Out of 82 identified interventions, 49 were relevant to LMICs and had reasonable amounts of evidence, and therefore selected for in-depth reviews. Each was classified and assessed by the quality of available evidence and its potential to treat or prevent preterm birth and stillbirth. Impacts on other maternal, fetal, newborn or child health outcomes were also considered. Assessments were based on an adaptation of the Grades of Recommendation Assessment, Development and Evaluation criteria.

Results

Most interventions require additional research to improve the quality of evidence. Others had little evidence of benefit and should be discontinued. The following are supported by moderate- to high-quality evidence and strongly recommended for LMICs:

• Two interventions prevent preterm births—smoking cessation and progesterone

• Eight interventions prevent stillbirths—balanced protein energy supplementation, screening and treatment of syphilis, intermittant presumptive treatment for malaria during pregnancy, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, birth preparedness, emergency obstetric care, cesarean section for breech presentation, and elective induction for post-term delivery

• Eleven interventions improve survival of preterm newborns—prophylactic steroids in preterm labor, antibiotics for PROM, vitamin K supplementation at delivery, case management of neonatal sepsis and pneumonia, delayed cord clamping, room air (vs. 100% oxygen) for resuscitation, hospital-based kangaroo mother care, early breastfeeding, thermal care, and surfactant therapy and application of continued distending pressure to the lungs for respiratory distress syndrome

Conclusion

The research paradigm for discovery science and intervention development must be balanced to address prevention as well as improve morbidity and mortality in all settings. This review also reveals significant gaps in current knowledge of interventions spanning the continuum of maternal and fetal outcomes, and the critical need to generate further high-quality evidence for promising interventions.