Use of text messaging for maternal and infant health: a systematic review of the literature

Matern Child Health J. 2015 May;19(5):969-89. doi: 10.1007/s10995-014-1595-8.


Text messaging is an increasingly popular communication tool in health interventions, but has been little studied in maternal and infant health. This literature review evaluates studies of text messaging that may be applied to the promotion of maternal and infant health. Articles from peer-reviewed journals published before June 2012 were included if they were experimental or quasi-experimental studies of behaviors endorsed either by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Pediatrics Association, or the United States Preventive Services Task Force; included reproductive age women (12-50 years) or infants up to 2 years of age; and were available in English. Qualitative studies of text messaging specific to pregnant women were also included. Studies were compared and contrasted by key variables, including: design, time-period, study population, and results. Forty-eight articles were included, 30 of which were randomized controlled trials. Interventions vary greatly in effectiveness and soundness of methodology, but collectively indicate that there is a wide range of preventative behaviors that text message interventions can effectively promote, including smoking cessation, diabetes control, appointment reminders, medication adherence, weight loss, and vaccine uptake. Common methodological issues include not accounting for attention affect and not aligning text message content to measured outcomes. Those interventions that are based on an established theory of behavior change and use motivational as opposed to informational language are more likely to be successful. Building on the growing body of evidence for text message interventions reviewed here, as well as the growing popularity of text messaging as a medium, researchers should be able to use this technology to engage difficult to reach populations.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Health*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Reminder Systems
  • Societies, Medical
  • Text Messaging*
  • Women's Health
  • Young Adult