The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least four antenatal care (ANC) visits for all pregnant women. Almost half of pregnant women worldwide, and especially in developing countries do not receive this amount of care. Poor attendance of ANC is associated with delivery of low birthweight babies and more neonatal deaths. ANC may include education on nutrition, potential problems with pregnancy or childbirth, child care and prevention or detection of disease during pregnancy.This review focused on community-based interventions and health systems-related interventions.
To assess the effects of health system and community interventions for improving coverage of antenatal care and other perinatal health outcomes.
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (7 June 2015) and reference lists of retrieved studies.
We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-randomised trials and cluster-randomised trials. Trials of any interventions to improve ANC coverage were eligible for inclusion. Trials were also eligible if they targeted specific and related outcomes, such as maternal or perinatal death, but also reported ANC coverage.
Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and risk of bias, extracted data and checked them for accuracy.
We included 34 trials involving approximately 400,000 women. Some trials tested community-based interventions to improve uptake of antenatal care (media campaigns, education or financial incentives for pregnant women), while other trials looked at health systems interventions (home visits for pregnant women or equipment for clinics). Most trials took place in low- and middle-income countries, and 29 of the 34 trials used a cluster-randomised design. We assessed 30 of the 34 trials as of low or unclear overall risk of bias. Comparison 1: One intervention versus no interventionWe found marginal improvements in ANC coverage of at least four visits (average odds ratio (OR) 1.11, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01 to 1.22; participants = 45,022; studies = 10; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.01; I² = 52%; high quality evidence). Sensitivity analysis with a more conservative intra-cluster correlation co-efficient (ICC) gave similar marginal results. Excluding one study at high risk of bias shifted the marginal pooled estimate towards no effect. There was no effect on pregnancy-related deaths (average OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.08; participants = 114,930; studies = 10; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 0%; low quality evidence), perinatal mortality (average OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.90 to 1.07; studies = 15; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.01; I² = 58%; moderate quality evidence) or low birthweight (average OR 0.94, 95% CI 0.82 to 1.06; studies = five; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 5%; high quality evidence). Single interventions led to marginal improvements in the number of women who delivered in health facilities (average OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.15; studies = 10; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 0%; high quality evidence), and in the proportion of women who had at least one ANC visit (average OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.79; studies = six; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.24; I² = 76%; moderate quality evidence). Results for ANC coverage (at least four and at least one visit) and for perinatal mortality had substantial statistical heterogeneity. Single interventions did not improve the proportion of women receiving tetanus protection (average OR 1.03, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.15; studies = 8; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.01; I² = 57%). No study reported onintermittent prophylactic treatment for malaria. Comparison 2: Two or more interventions versus no interventionWe found no improvements in ANC coverage of four or more visits (average OR 1.48, 95% CI 0.99 to 2.21; participants = 7840; studies = six; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.10; I² = 48%; low quality evidence) or pregnancy-related deaths (average OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.26; participants = 13,756; studies = three; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 0%; moderate quality evidence). However, combined interventions led to improvements in ANC coverage of at least one visit (average OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.47 to 2.17; studies = five; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 0%; moderate quality evidence), perinatal mortality (average OR 0.74, 95% CI 0.57 to 0.95; studies = five; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.06; I² = 83%; moderate quality evidence) and low birthweight (average OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.80; studies = two; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.00; I² = 0%; moderate quality evidence). Meta-analyses for both ANC coverage four or more visits and perinatal mortality had substantial statistical heterogeneity. Combined interventions improved the proportion of women who had tetanus protection (average OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.87; studies = 3; Heterogeneity: Tau² = 0.01; I² = 33%). No trial in this comparison reported on intermittent prophylactic treatment for malaria. Comparison 3: Two interventions compared head to head. No trials found. Comparison 4: One intervention versus a combination of interventionsThere was no difference in ANC coverage (four or more visits and at least one visit), pregnancy-related deaths, deliveries in a health facility or perinatal mortality. No trials in this comparison reported on low birthweight orintermittent prophylactic treatment of malaria.
Implications for practice - Single interventions may improve ANC coverage (at least one visit and four or more visits) and deliveries in health facilities. Combined interventions may improve ANC coverage (at least one visit), reduce perinatal mortality and reduce the occurrence of low birthweight. The effects of the interventions are unrelated to whether they are community or health system interventions. Implications for research - More details should be provided in reporting numbers of events, group totals and the ICCs used to adjust for cluster effects. Outcomes should be reported uniformly so that they are comparable to commonly-used population indicators. We recommend further cluster-RCTs of pregnant women and women in their reproductive years, using combinations of interventions and looking at outcomes that are important to pregnant women, such as maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality, alongside the explanatory outcomes along the pathway of care: ANC coverage, the services provided during ANC and deliveries in health facilities.