Introduction Few interventions exist to address the high burden of stillbirths in apparently healthy pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To establish whether a trial on the impact of routine Doppler screening in a low-risk obstetric population is warranted, we determined the prevalence of abnormal fetal umbilical artery resistance indices among low-risk pregnant women using a low-cost Doppler device in five LMICs.
Methods We conducted a multicentre, prospective cohort study in Ghana, India, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa. Trained nurses or midwives performed a single, continuous-wave Doppler screening using the Umbiflow device for low-risk pregnant women (according to local guidelines) between 28 and 34 weeks’ gestation. We assessed the prevalence of abnormal (raised) resistance index (RI), including absent end diastolic flow (AEDF), and compared pregnancy and health service utilisation outcomes between women with abnormal RI versus those with normal RI.
Results Of 7151 women screened, 495 (6.9%) had an abnormal RI, including 14 (0.2%) with AEDF. Caesarean section (40.8% vs 28.1%), labour induction (20.5% vs 9.0%) and low birth weight (<2500 g) (15.0% vs 6.8%) were significantly more frequent among women with abnormal RI compared with women with normal RI. Abnormal RI was associated with lower birth weights across all weight centiles. Stillbirth and perinatal mortality rates were similar between women with normal and abnormal RI.
Conclusion A single Doppler screening of low-risk pregnant women in LMICs using the Umbiflow device can detect a large number of fetuses at risk of growth restriction and consequent adverse perinatal outcomes. Many perinatal deaths could potentially be averted with appropriate intervention strategies.
Trial registration number CTRI/2018/07/01486.
- primary care
- public health
Data availability statement
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Contributors This study was conceived by OTO. OTO and JPV coordinated the writing of the study protocol, with input from the country principal investigators. VV prepared the statistical analysis plan and led statistical analysis with TB. All country principal investigators (RA, EM, SSG, YP, AK, UC, ZPQ, AO, GG, SR, RCP, VV) were part of the Umbiflow International Study steering group and led the study with support from the co-investigators in each country. The Umbiflow International Study steering group reviewed and interpreted the final data at a workshop convened by WHO. The first draft of the manuscript was prepared by VV, with substantial input from JPV, RCP and OTO. All authors reviewed and revised the manuscript draft critically for intellectual content and approved the final manuscript for publication. VV, JPV, RCP and OTO are the guarantors of this study. The manuscript represents the views of the named authors only.
Funding The study was funded by the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP), a cosponsored programme executed by the WHO.
Competing interests The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)/University of Pretoria (UP) Maternal and Infant Healthcare Strategies Unit (VV, RCP) has previously received funding from SAMRC and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for Umbiflow research done by Nkosi et al. and Hlongwane et al. The CSIR provided the Umbiflow Doppler probes and Umbiflow software used in this study. As a satellite research unit, the SAMRC Maternal and Infant Healthcare Strategies Unit receives research funding from the SAMRC.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.