Maternal and Newborn Health Research Roundup – April 2024

By: AlignMNH Secretariat

April 18, 2024


This month, our research summaries cover several topics, including azithromycin use for preventing postpartum infections, disparities in maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition interventions coverage throughout subnational regions, the effect of iron-folic acid supplementation and antenatal care visits on reducing low birth weight risk, the efficacy of a machine learning-based model for improved risk assessment of pre-eclampsia-related complications, and the impact of common antenatal mental disorders on maternal and child health outcomes. 


A recent systematic review and meta-analysis has shed light on the potential benefits of administering azithromycin during labor. The study, which synthesized data from six randomized clinical trials involving over 44,000 mothers and newborns, found that azithromycin significantly reduced the incidence of maternal infections, particularly sepsis, endometritis, and wound or surgical site infections. However, the antibiotic did not show a similar reduction in neonatal-associated infections, with the exception of skin infections.

This comprehensive analysis suggests that azithromycin could be a valuable tool in preventing postpartum infections among mothers, thereby enhancing maternal health outcomes. (14 March 2024)


A recent study has brought to light the disparities in the coverage of maternal, newborn, child health, and nutrition (MNCHN) interventions across subnational regions in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Nigeria.

The research, which involved interviews with healthcare providers and district health management staff, identified a significant barrier in the lack of robust health management information systems data. This gap, along with weak facility infrastructure, limited budget allocation, and training deficiencies, hinders the scaling of 14 evidence-based MNCHN interventions. The study emphasizes the need for strategic data collection at the subnational level to address health system gaps and improve the scale of best practices. (15 March 2024)


A recent pooled analysis of national surveys from six South Asian countries has revealed a synergistic effect of antenatal care visits and iron-folic acid supplementation on reducing the risk of low birth weight (LBW). The study, which included data from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, and Afghanistan, found that not attending antenatal care visits and not consuming iron-folic acid were significantly associated with a higher likelihood of LBW. Moreover, the combined effect of fewer than four antenatal care visits and less than 180 days of iron-folic acid supplementation was linked to an even higher risk of LBW.

This research reinforces the importance of integrated maternal health programs that capitalize on antenatal care and nutritional supplementation to improve fetal outcomes in the South Asian region. (18 March 2024)


A new study has introduced the PIERS-ML model, a machine learning-based tool designed to improve the assessment of risks associated with pre-eclampsia in pregnant women. The model, which was developed using a large dataset from diverse global regions, has shown remarkable accuracy in predicting severe adverse maternal outcomes within 48 hours of assessment.

By categorizing women into distinct risk groups, the PIERS-ML model promises to enhance clinical decision-making and provide tailored guidance to pregnant women and healthcare providers, potentially reducing the global burden of pre-eclampsia-related complications. (April 2024)


A recent study conducted in Eastern Ethiopia highlights the impact of antenatal common mental disorders on obstetric and perinatal outcomes. With a focus on 1,011 pregnant women followed over the course of a year, the findings revealed that nearly 39% experienced symptoms of antenatal common mental disorders.

Using robust statistical analysis, the study linked these symptoms to an increased risk of pregnancy complications, preterm birth, and low birth weight. These findings underscore the urgent need for enhanced mental health support for pregnant women, as untreated mental health issues during pregnancy can have profound implications for both maternal and child health, with potential long-lasting social and economic consequences. (15 March 2024)