Objective: To evaluate whether preterm-birth prevention educational programs are effective at reducing neonatal mortality, low birth weight (LBW), and preterm delivery.
Data sources: A MEDLINE literature search of English-language studies was performed, supplemented by a bibliography search of original research and review articles to locate studies assessing preterm-birth prevention programs.
Method of study selection: We identified 31 studies that reported results from trials evaluating preterm-birth prevention programs. From this group, only the six randomized controlled trials evaluating preterm-birth prevention education programs satisfied criteria of homogeneity to be included in a meta-analysis. One of these six studies was a subset of another study and was excluded except when reporting outcomes that were not included in the larger report.
Data extraction and synthesis: Two independent reviewers assessed study methodology and identified the following outcomes: LBW frequency, preterm birth frequency, neonatal survival, birth weight, gestational age at delivery, and preterm labor diagnosis rates. When data were combined using meta-analytic techniques, no significant benefits were found for preterm-birth education programs in preventing neonatal death (cumulative relative risk [RR] 1.00, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.99-1.01), LBW rates (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.88-1.11), or preterm delivery rates (RR 1.08, 95% CI 0.92-1.27). The only statistically significant effect of preterm birth education programs appears to be an increase in the frequency at which preterm labor is diagnosed (RR 1.71, 95% CI 1.41-2.08).
Conclusion: Preterm-birth prevention educational programs appear to have little benefit in reducing preterm birth and may result in an increased rate of diagnosis of preterm labor.