Anaemia in pregnancy remains a global health problem In this issue of BJOG Hull et al …… et al report on an important study from South Africa regarding anaemia in pregnancy and the response to iron therapy. They report that in HIV-positive women the response was slower than in HIV-negative women. The underlying causes of anaemia varied and included iron deficiency (as assessed by ferritin levels) as well as concurrent infections (urinary tract infections and tuberculosis)Anaemia in pregnancy (blood haemoglobin Hb<11.0g/dl) occurs in > 40% of women living in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) and in some settings in Asia prevalence is >60%. (McCauley et al, BMJ Global Health, 2018; 3(3):e000625) The latest WHO recommendations on antenatal care consider anaemia as the world’s second leading cause of disability and one of the most serious global public health problems (WHO Geneva 2016 ) .Although globally the focus has largely been on anaemia in pregnancy resulting from either iron deficiency or malaria, this is an incomplete approach at best. Iron deficiency is hard to measure and confirm as; i) this requires a functioning laboratory to be in place, ii) indicators for iron deficiency are influenced by the presence of concurrent infection, or, iii) repeated measures of Hb are needed to check whether the anaemia is responsive to treatment with iron. By contrast, malaria is relatively easy to diagnose via rapid diagnostic tests or microscopic examination of a stained blood smear slide. The handful of studies which have comprehensively assessed aetiology of anaemia in pregnant women demonstrate that anaemia is most commonly the result of complex multiple underlying factors including nutritional deficiencies as well as infectious diseases. Both nutritional deficiency and other infections (malaria, tuberculosis) are more likely with HIV-infection which itself can lead to anaemia probably through direct suppression of erythropoiesis.Hull et al show what was possible in a real-life clinical practice setting. This example of integration of research into clinical practice is laudable and is illustrative of how such integration could result in better services being made available for women in LMIC where burden of disease is high, but diagnostic tests are largely unavailable. It is sobering to realise that the majority of women world-wide will still only be screened for anaemia during pregnancy using ‘conjunctival inspection’ which is highly inaccurate. (van den Broek et al. Bull WHO 1999; 77(1):15-21) Rapid diagnostic tests are available for Hb, malaria, syphilis, HIV and, more recently, for tuberculosis. We are doing women a dis-service if we cannot offer at least these basic diagnostic tests as part of antenatal care.To prevent anaemia during pregnancy, the ‘fall-back’ position is to offer all women daily iron prophylaxis (30-60mg elemental iron) - with luck tablets are available that include folic acid (0.4mg) - along with presumptive treatment of malaria (various regimes) in endemic areas. Multi-micronutrients (including the required amount of iron and folic acid) might actually be better but cannot be recommended because of lack of evidence and they are still three times as expensive as iron and folic acid supplementation alone (3$ vs 1$ approximately).WHO recently recommended a better understanding of the aetiology of anaemia. A search on PubMed shows a clear lack of papers on the topic and more good research is needed. Investment in the antenatal care package offered to women is also much needed if we are aiming for a global ‘Health for All’.
Episiotomy and operative vaginal delivery- Do we need more evidence?A.H. Sultan- Urogynaecology and Pelvic Floor Reconstruction Unit, Croydon University Hospital, London Road, Croydon CR7 7YE- Honorary Reader, St George’s University of LondonEmail:email@example.comTel: 00 44 7961386840(ORCID 0000-0001-8979-2304)J.W. de Leeuw, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ikazia Ziekenhuis, Rotterdam, the Netherlands(ORCID 0000-0001-5028-8055)DISCLOSURE of INTERESTAbdul Sultan is the co-director of the Croydon Perineal and Anal Sphincter Trauma courses (www.perineum.net)Operative vaginal delivery (OVD) is recognised as a major risk factor in the occurrence of obstetric anal sphincter injuries (OASIs), particularly during first vaginal deliveries. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have shown the merits of adopting a policy of restrictive mediolateral episiotomy during normal vaginal delivery, although no RCT to date has included measurements of the angle or size of the episiotomy. The benefits of episiotomy performed during OVD demonstrated in large observational studies are overwhelming (Sultan et al. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2019;240:192-196) .Ankarcrona et al have added another study to this collection and have confirmed the results of most such publications. In their study, based on 11 years of data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register, they have emulated a RCT using propensity scores. Ultimately, both methods used showed an almost identical risk reducing effect as the commonly used logistic regression analysis. demonstrating a significant reduction in OASIs during vacuum extraction associated with the use of mediolateral or lateral episiotomies. The Number Needed to Treat to prevent one OASI was 27, which is known to be fourfold lower in forceps delivery.Is the episiotomy a treatment for a certain condition or disease? In reality, episiotomy is an intervention to reduce the risk for an unwanted side effect of birth. Consequently, the impact is one of risk modification as opposed to treatment. Similar to the study by Ankarcrona et al risk factors are commonly established with the use of observational studies (RCOG Greentop guideline No 29, 2015) . In the last decade, several large observational studies Involving more than 2 million women showed a significantly lower rate of OASI in nulliparous women undergoing OVD with an episiotomy.Given the availability of such studies, based on registered databases, showing significantly lower OASI rates, is there still a need for further evidence? Ankarcrona et al acknowledge Lund et al who have shown in their systematic review that there is an association between the risk reduction for OASI with episiotomy rates; the greatest reduction was shown in studies with episiotomy rates over 70%.Obstetricians opposing the use of routine episiotomy during OVD highlight the lack of a definitive RCT. RCT’s are commonly used to address the treatment effect of an intervention on a particular condition with a well described outcome. However, RCT’s of episiotomy during OVD have proven to be very difficult and usually compare no more than the liberal versus the restricted use of episiotomy. As Ankarcrona et al mention, there is only one pilot RCT of IVD and episiotomy indicating that 1600 OVD will need to be included for a definitive study. However, we believe that the design of such a study should be two separate arms for forceps and vacuum delivery as the inherent risks with/without an episiotomy is different. Such a study with vacuum extraction is currently underway in Sweden.The challenge now is to identify prior to labour which women are at high risk of sustaining OASIS using prediction models based on the pre-existing large national databases.
Letter to the Editor, BJOG Title:Deceleration Area and Deceleration Capacity: Promising predictors of fetal acidaemia in human labour? Visual versus computerised cardiotocographyRe: Georgieva A, Lear CA, Westgate JA, Kasai M, Miyagi E, Ikeda T, Gunn AJ, Bennet L. Deceleration area and capacity during labour-like umbilical cord occlusions identify evolving hypotension: a controlled study in fetal sheep. BJOG 2021; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.16638.Author: Mr. Shashikant L SHOLAPURKARMD, DNB, MRCOGDept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology,Royal United Hospital, Bath, BA1 3NG, UKEmail:firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Tel: 07906620662Short Running Title: Deceleration area and capacity in labourWord count: 500Corresponding Author: Mr. Shashikant L SHOLAPURKARMD, DNB, MRCOGDept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology,Royal United Hospital, Bath, BA1 3NG, UKStatement of interest: The author has no conflict of interest or funding to declare.
Objective To test the hypothesis that there is seasonal variation in the rates of gestational diabetes (GDM) diagnosed using a 2 hour oral glucose tolerance test. Design Monthly assessment of the percentage of women screened from 1st April 2016 to the 31st December 2020 who were diagnosed as having gestational diabetes Setting London Teaching Hospital Population 28,128 women receiving antenatal care between April 1st 2016 and 31 December 2020. Methods Retrospective study of prospectively collected data. Main Outcome Measures Proportion of women screened diagnosed as having gestational diabetes. Results The mean (SD) percentage of women diagnosed with GDM was 14.78 (2.24) in summer (June, July, August) compared with 11.23 (1.62) in winter (p < 0.001), 12.13 (1.94) in spring (p = 0.002), and 11.88 (2.67) in autumn (p = 0.003). There was a highly significant positive correlation of the percentage testing positive for GDM with the mean maximum monthly temperature (R2 = 0.248, p < 0.001). There was a statistically significant 33.8% increase in the proportion of GDM diagnoses from June 2020 onwards, possibly related to a reduction in exercise secondary to the Covid-19 pandemic. Conclusions There is a 23.3% higher rate of GDM diagnoses in the warmer summer months. There has been a 33.8% rise in GDM diagnoses associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Placenta accreta spectrum: Welcome progress and a call for standardization.Mini-commentary for BJOG on Kayem et al 2021 BJOG-20-1462R3Placenta accreta spectrum (PAS) is among the most feared causes of maternal morbidity worldwide, and yet few prospective data are available to inform best practice. PAS is rare enough that rigorous study in a single center is difficult, but common enough that most obstetric hospitals now encounter PAS. Management and outcomes vary strikingly between hospitals and best practice, regrettably, is guided more by expert consensus than by level I evidence. In fact, most clinical questions regarding management of PAS are informed by essentially no prospective data (Collins et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019;220:511-526).Into this data void has come the PACCRETA cohort (Kayem et al. Act Obstet Gynecol Scand 2013;92:476-482) and some of its first results, published in this issue of BJOG (Kayem et al. BJOG 2021). PACCRETA is a prospective population-based study from 176 hospitals in France, capturing 30% of all French deliveries, from from 2013 to 2015. The study investigators identified 249, or 4.8 per 10,000, cases of PAS.Of all PAS patients, Kayem and colleagues found that a full half did not have the classic combination of risk factors for PAS (previa with history of cesarean). This group had lower morbidity and milder disease than those with the classic combination. Only 17% of those without classic risk factors were diagnosed antenatally. The message here is mixed: those without classic PAS risk factors are less likely to be diagnosed antenatally (bad) but appear to suffer less morbidity overall (good).But did these patients actually have PAS? Only 21% of those without prior cesarean and previa had a hysterectomy. Although this could be due to a regional preference for conservative treatments, the presence of false positives seems likely. Without a hysterectomy specimen, the diagnosis of PAS is difficult, controversial, and (in our opinion) highly susceptible to overdiagnosis. The authors define “strict” criteria for true cases of PAS, but several criteria depended entirely on the subjective assessment of a clinician faced with a difficult placental removal and the flawed principle of PAS as diagnosis of exclusion . Difficulty in manual placental removal or massive bleeding from an implantation site does not always indicate that microscopic PAS was present. Similarly, areas of prior cesarean section scar dehiscence (windows) where the placenta can be seen through the serosa are often diagnosed as percreta (Figure) without any histological evidence of the villous tissue having invaded through the serosa or beyond (Hecht et al. Modern Pathol 2020;33:2382-2396).We congratulate Kayem and colleagues for the current study and all of their important contributions to our understanding of PAS. However, these data illustrate the need for standardization of the definition of PAS, especially in conservatively managed cases with considerable potential for misdiagnosis. There is a desperate need for controlled studies of patients with antenatally suspected PAS with detailed and objective documentation of imaging, intra-operative findings, and when available, histopathological examination. In absence of such studies, the void of definitive data to guide treatment options will remain wide open.
Uterus transplantation (UTx) is fast evolving from an experimental to a clinical procedure, combining solid organ transplantation with assisted reproductive technology. The commencement of the first human uterus transplant trial in the UK leads us to examine and reflect upon the legal and regulatory aspects closely intertwined with UTx from the process of donation to potential implications on fertility treatment and the birth of the resultant child. As the world’s first ephemeral transplant, the possibility of organ restitution requires consideration and is discussed herein. Public funding of fertility treatments pertaining to UTx remains variable and warrants review.
Letter to the Editor, BJOG Title: ESMiE confidential enquiry: Broader view besides focus on errors by birth-attendants.Re: Rowe R, Draper ES, Kenyon S, Bevan C, Dickens J, Forrester M, Scanlan R, Tuffnell D, Kurinczuk JJ. Intrapartum-related perinatal deaths in births planned in midwifery-led settings in Great Britain: findings and recommendations from the ESMiE confidential enquiry. BJOG 2020;127:1665–1675.Author: Mr. Shashikant L SHOLAPURKARMD, DNB, MRCOGDept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology,Royal United Hospital, Bath, BA1 3NG, UKShort running title: ESMiE enquiry: broader viewEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07906620662Word count: 500Corresponding Author: Mr. Shashikant L SHOLAPURKARMD, DNB, MRCOGDept of Obstetrics & Gynaecology,Royal United Hospital, Bath, BA1 3NG, UKStatement of interest: The author has no conflict of interest or funding to declare.
Re: Training in the use of intrapartum electronic fetal monitoring with cardiotocography: systematic review and meta‐analysis. Cardiotocography training is a complex intervention and requires complex evaluations: a letter to editor.Lightly K, Weeks AD, Scott HCorrespondence to Dr Kate Lightly – email@example.comClinical Research Fellow, Sanyu Research Unit, University of Liverpool and Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, members of Liverpool Health Partners, Crown Street, Liverpool, L8 7SS.Professor Andrew D WeeksProfessor of International Maternal Health, Sanyu Research Unit, University of Liverpool and Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, members of Liverpool Health Partners, Crown Street, Liverpool, L8 7SS.Professor Hazel ScottDean of School of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Liverpool, Cedar House, Liverpool, L69 3GE.Running title - CTG training requires complex evaluationsWe congratulate Kelly et al on their review on the effects of training in cardiotocography (CTG).i It is a critical step towards understanding how to correctly implement CTG training. However, we query the relevance of some of the included studies and whether using Kirkpatrick’s model adequately captures all of the relevant complexities. We believe that further work is needed to understand how such training will impact on practice.Some of the CTG research projects reviewed were poorly representative of the needs of clinicians tasked with improving fetal monitoring in their hospitals. For clinicians, their population of interest is practising clinicians who work on labour wards (sometimes infrequently); studies involving undergraduates alone may not be generalisable. Training in intermittent auscultation is also relevant. Considerable detail on the training intervention is required, including not only the format of teaching, but the duration, curriculum and proportion of relevant staff trained. Detail is also required of supporting interventions and context, as training alone is unlikely to impact change. Many would consider ‘no training’ unethical and therefore not a relevant comparator . In the UK, CTG training and competency is now required for all maternity staff.ii The ultimate aim of CTG (and therefore CTG training) is to detect the hypoxic fetus, so that timely intervention can be undertaken to avoid perinatal harm, without unnecessary intervention. Therefore, the outcomes of interest have to include intrapartum stillbirths, hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy and mode of delivery.Kirkpatrick’s model was used in this review to evaluate training at four levels (reaction, knowledge, behaviour change and organisational performance). However, it does not attempt to understand why interventions work, or the context, or the causal pathways between training and change in practice.iii Whether participants like training (‘reaction’) is of little relevance, and knowledge acquisition (‘knowledge’) is a proxy which does not equate with improved on the job performance and outcomes. Maternal and perinatal outcomes (‘performance’) were only collected in a small number of studies.CTG training is a complex intervention which aims to create change, not simply knowledge acquisition. We therefore believe that a formal Realist Evaluation is needed. This emerging methodology has been used successfully to understand healthcare change processes and supplement traditional Cochrane style reviews. It aims to understand why complex interventions work, how, for whom, in what context and to what extentiv. Collaboration with the relevant authors to gain detailed intervention descriptions, with a realist approach, may add some much needed explanatory power to this critical subject.Training alone is unlikely to impact change. Even the best educational package will fail without the necessary support - it needs an educational and working culture which supports learning and change, aligned and clear policies, and motivated, well supported drivers and leaders.How doctors learn and what supports them to put new knowledge into practice are key research questions. High quality, methodologically appropriate, properly funded studies are needed to address these questions. Not answering them means many research findings are redundant, as they simply will not be implemented.ReferencesI Kelly S, Redmond P, King S, Oliver‐Williams C, Lamé G, Liberati E et al. Training in the use of intrapartum electronic fetal monitoring with cardiotocography: systematic review and meta‐analysis. BJOG. 2021; 00: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.16619ii NHS England. Saving Babies’ Lives Version Two. A care bundle for reducing perinatal mortality. London: NHS England 2019. [cited 2021 Feb 3]. Available from: www.england.nhs.ukiii Moreau KA. Has the new Kirkpatrick generation built a better hammer for our evaluation toolbox? Med Teach. 2017 Sep; 39(9): 999-1001. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2017.1337874iv Wong G, Westhorp G, Greenhalgh J, Manzano A, Jagosh J, Greenhalgh T. Quality and reporting standards, resources, training materials and information for realist evaluation: the RAMESES II project. Health Services and Delivery Research. 2017 5 (28): 1–108. https://doi.org/10.3310/hsdr05280.Acknowledgements – NilDisclosure of interests - NilContribution to authorshipKL wrote the first draft of this letter and then it was revised by AW and HS.Details of ethics approval – N/AFunding – Dr Lightly’s PhD entitled “Improving intrapartum fetal monitoring in India: A mixed methods approach” is funded by MRC/DfID/Wellcome Trust Joint Global Health Trials Fund. MR/R006/1801
Risk stratification of HPV positive women in routine cervical screeningHigh risk HPV primary screening is replacing organised cytology-based screening based on increased sensitivity to detect high grade intra-epithelial neoplasia and the very high negative predictive value which will allow extended screening intervals. The benefit of increased CIN detection and cancer prevention needs to balance against the disbenefits to screen positive women in over investigation not east the psychological impact. For colposcopy services, the English cervical screening programme reported a 80% increase in colposcopy referrals in the first round of screening, creating huge pressures on service capacity (Rebolj M et al BMJ 2019;364:l240). The lower positive predictive value also impacts on colposcopy performance with a different referral population wit proportionately less high grade CIN present. In this issue of BJOG, Gori M et al provide observational data from a large longitudinal study of routine primary HPV screening in an organised quality assured cervical screening programme in 3 regions of Italy. Whilst routinely collected data from real-world programmes will have limitations, they do provide an insight into disease detection and importantly impact on colposcopy provision. In a comparison of triage strategies, combined HPV genotyping for HPV16 and high-grade cytology offered an acceptable balance of risk of CIN3+ with number of colposcopies needed to detect one lesion. These results differ from the English pilot (Rebolj M et al 2019 BJC;121(6):455-463) where HPV16/18 genotyping detected only 1.2% more cases of CIN2+ with 5.9% additional colposcopies. Gori M et al did not combine HPV16/18 but they did report that HPV18 on genotyping was not as clinically useful at baseline or 12-month follow-up. Furthermore, 90% of women screened were aged over 35 years when HPV screening is more clinically effective whereas the English pilot started screening at age 25 years when HPV infection is more prevalent and less likely to be clinically significant. Longer follow-up, importantly at the next screening round, is not yet available when the relevance of non-HPV 16 types may be more apparent.The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on health services and in particular screening, has sharpened the argument of risk stratification following primary screen positive testing both for service providers and those in the target population. Ciavattini A et al (2020 Int J Cancer 30(8):1097-1100) reported on suspension or postponement of cervical screening programmes across Europe relevant to both routine screening and onward referral to colposcopy. As services have needed to adapt to Covid infection rates and health service capacity, the ability to triage effectively and avoid unnecessary hospital visits is critical. Clinicians and women need information on their risk to inform clinical practice and provide reassurance. In the current second wave, the suspension of screening implemented in the first wave is no longer acceptable. Whilst data, such as these from Gori et al, continue to emerge from national and regional screening programmes, Covid has highlighted the need to be responsive and adaptive to allow cancer prevention to continue.