New and Updated Cochrane Systematic Reviews
Home uterine monitoring for detecting preterm labour
Authors' conclusions: Home uterine monitoring may result in fewer admissions to a neonatal intensive care unit but in more unscheduled antenatal visits and tocolytic treatment; the level of evidence is generally low to moderate. Important group differences were not evident when we undertook sensitivity analysis using only trials at low risk of bias. There is no impact on maternal and perinatal outcomes such as perinatal mortality or incidence of preterm birth.
Psychosocial interventions for supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy
Authors' conclusions: Psychosocial interventions to support women to stop smoking in pregnancy can increase the proportion of women who stop smoking in late pregnancy and the proportion of infants born low birthweight. Counselling, feedback and incentives appear to be effective, however the characteristics and context of the interventions should be carefully considered. The effect of health education and social support is less clear. New trials have been published during the preparation of this review and will be included in the next update.
Intermittent auscultation (IA) of fetal heart rate in labour for fetal well-being
Authors' conclusions: Using a hand-held (battery and wind-up) Doppler and intermittent CTG with an abdominal transducer without paper tracing for IA in labour was associated with an increase in caesarean sections due to fetal distress. There was no clear difference in neonatal outcomes (low Apgar scores at five minutes after birth, neonatal seizures or perinatal mortality). Long-term outcomes for the baby (including neurodevelopmental disability and cerebral palsy) were not reported. The quality of the evidence was assessed as moderate to very low and several important outcomes were not reported which means that uncertainty remains regarding the use of IA of FHR in labour. As intermittent CTG and Doppler were associated with higher rates of caesarean sections compared with routine Pinard monitoring, women, health practitioners and policy makers need to consider these results in the absence of evidence of short- and long-term benefits for the mother or baby. Large high-quality randomised trials, particularly in low-income settings, are needed. Trials should assess both short- and long-term health outcomes, comparing different monitoring tools and timing for IA.
Hepatitis B immunoglobulin during pregnancy for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus
Authors' conclusions: Due to very low to low quality evidence found in this review, we are uncertain of the effect of benefit of antenatal HBIG administration to the HBV-infected mothers on newborn outcomes, such as HBsAg, HBV-DNA, and HBeAg compared with no intervention. The results of the effects of HBIG on HBsAg and HBeAg are surrogate outcomes (raising risk of indirectness), and we need to be critical while interpreting the findings. We found no data on newborn mortality or maternal mortality or both, or other serious adverse events. Well-designed randomised clinical trials are needed to determine the benefits and harms of HBIG versus placebo in prevention of MTCT of HBV.
Selective versus routine use of episiotomy for vaginal birth
Authors' conclusions: In women where no instrumental delivery is intended, selective episiotomy policies result in fewer women with severe perineal/vaginal trauma. Other findings, both in the short or long term, provide no clear evidence that selective episiotomy policies results in harm to mother or baby. The review thus demonstrates that believing that routine episiotomy reduces perineal/vaginal trauma is not justified by current evidence. Further research in women where instrumental delivery is intended may help clarify if routine episiotomy is useful in this particular group. These trials should use better, standardised outcome assessment methods.
Continuous cardiotocography (CTG) as a form of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) for fetal assessment during labour
Authors' conclusions: CTG during labour is associated with reduced rates of neonatal seizures, but no clear differences in cerebral palsy, infant mortality or other standard measures of neonatal wellbeing. However, continuous CTG was associated with an increase in caesarean sections and instrumental vaginal births. The challenge is how best to convey these results to women to enable them to make an informed decision without compromising the normality of labour.
The question remains as to whether future randomised trials should measure efficacy (the intrinsic value of continuous CTG in trying to prevent adverse neonatal outcomes under optimal clinical conditions) or effectiveness (the effect of this technique in routine clinical practice).
Along with the need for further investigations into long-term effects of operative births for women and babies, much remains to be learned about the causation and possible links between antenatal or intrapartum events, neonatal seizures and long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes, whilst considering changes in clinical practice over the intervening years (one-to-one-support during labour, caesarean section rates). The large number of babies randomised to the trials in this review have now reached adulthood and could potentially provide a unique opportunity to clarify if a reduction in neonatal seizures is something inconsequential that should not greatly influence women's and clinicians' choices, or if seizure reduction leads to long-term benefits for babies. Defining meaningful neurological and behavioural outcomes that could be measured in large cohorts of young adults poses huge challenges. However, it is important to collect data from these women and babies while medical records still exist, where possible describe women's mobility and positions during labour and birth, and clarify if these might impact on outcomes. Research should also address the possible contribution of the supine position to adverse outcomes for babies, and assess whether the use of mobility and positions can further reduce the low incidence of neonatal seizures and improve psychological outcomes for women.
Medical treatments for incomplete miscarriage
Authors' conclusions:The available evidence suggests that medical treatment, with misoprostol, and expectant care are both acceptable alternatives to routine surgical evacuation given the availability of health service resources to support all three approaches. Further studies, including long-term follow-up, are clearly needed to confirm these findings. There is an urgent need for studies on women who miscarry at more than 13 weeks' gestation.
Cardiotocography versus intermittent auscultation of fetal heart on admission to labour ward for assessment of fetal wellbeing
Authors' conclusions: Contrary to continued use in some clinical areas, we found no evidence of benefit for the use of the admission CTG for low-risk women on admission in labour.
Furthermore, the probability is that admission CTG increases the caesarean section rate by approximately 20%. The data lacked power to detect possible important differences in perinatal mortality. However, it is unlikely that any trial, or meta-analysis, will be adequately powered to detect such differences. The findings of this review support recommendations that the admission CTG not be used for women who are low risk on admission in labour. Women should be informed that admission CTG is likely associated with an increase in the incidence of caesarean section without evidence of benefit.
Evidence quality ranged from moderate to very low, with downgrading decisions based on imprecision, inconsistency and a lack of blinding for participants and personnel. All four included trials were conducted in developed Western European countries. One additional study is ongoing.
The usefulness of the findings of this review for developing countries will depend on FHR monitoring practices. However, an absence of benefit and likely harm associated with admission CTG will have relevance for countries where questions are being asked about the role of the admission CTG.
Future studies evaluating the effects of the admission CTG should consider including women admitted with signs of labour and before a formal diagnosis of labour. This would include a cohort of women currently having admission CTGs and not included in current trials.