Support during pregnancy for women at increased risk of low

Cochrane Review by Hodnett ED, Fredericks S, Weston J

This record should be cited as: Hodnett ED, Fredericks S, Weston J. Support during pregnancy for women at increased risk of low birthweight babies. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD000198. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000198.pub2.

ABSTRACT

Title

Support during pregnancy for women at increased risk of low birthweight babies

Background

Studies consistently show a relationship between social disadvantage and low birthweight. Many countries have programs offering special assistance to women thought to be at risk for giving birth to a low birthweight infant. These programs may include advice and counseling (about nutrition, rest, stress management, alcohol, and recreational drug use), tangible assistance (e.g., transportation to clinic appointments, household help), and emotional support. The programs may be delivered by multidisciplinary teams of health professionals, specially trained lay workers, or combination of lay and professional workers.

Objectives

The primary objective was to assess effects of programs offering additional social support compared with routine care, for pregnant women believed at high risk for giving birth to babies that are either preterm or weigh less than 2500 gm, or both, at birth. Secondary objectives were to determine whether effectiveness of support was mediated by timing of onset (early versus later in pregnancy) or type of provider (healthcare professional or lay woman).

Search strategy

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (January 2010).

Selection criteria

Randomized trials of additional support during at-risk pregnancy by either a professional (social worker, midwife, or nurse) or specially trained lay person, compared to routine care. We defined additional support as some form of emotional support (e.g., counseling, reassurance, sympathetic listening) and information or advice or both, either in home visits or during clinic appointments, and could include tangible assistance (e.g., transportation to clinic appointments, assistance with care of other children at home).

Data collection and analysis

Two review authors evaluated methodological quality. We performed double data entry.

Main results

We included 17 trials (12,264 women). Programs offering additional social support for at-risk pregnant women were not associated with improvements in any perinatal outcomes, but there was a reduction in the likelihood of antenatal hospital admission (three trials; n = 737; RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.92) and caesarean birth (nine trials; n = 4522; RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.78 to 0.97).

Authors' conclusions

Pregnant women need the support of caring family members, friends, and health professionals. While programs which offer additional support during pregnancy are unlikely to prevent the pregnancy from resulting in a low birthweight or preterm baby, they may be helpful in reducing the likelihood of antenatal hospital admission and caesarean birth.

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