• Article

Tailoring systematic reviews to meet critical priorities in maternal health in the intrapartum period

Health care practitioners and researchers commonly call for greater reliance on evidence as a means to achieve improvement in quality of care. Systematic reviews provide a means to accelerate the use of evidence-based clinical interventions and public health practices. The extent to which these time- and resource-intensive systematic reviews currently address critical maternal health priorities in the intrapartum period is unclear. This analysis summarises key maternal health and research priorities, maps these priorities to existing reviews, identifies gaps in the literature that can be addressed with systematic reviews, and highlights key methodological concerns in conducting systematic reviews. The analysis draws on published data on maternal morbidities and an overview of 108 systematic reviews in Medline in the past 5 years using the MeSH terms 'Delivery, Obstetric,' to draw the links between health priorities, research priorities, existing evidence and missing evidence. Key causes of morbidity during labour and delivery in the United States include haemorrhage, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, obstetric trauma and infection. Analyses of maternal morbidity and mortality suggest that key concerns include racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes and the prevention of adverse events. Systematic reviews, however, generally tend to focus on the reduction of harms associated with interventions, are frequently limited to randomised designs, and do not address issues of health disparities. The results suggest that advances in evidence-based care in maternal health require that systematic reviews address issues of prevention of adverse events, include a larger variety of study designs when necessary and pay closer attention to health disparities


Viswanathan, M. (2008). Tailoring systematic reviews to meet critical priorities in maternal health in the intrapartum period. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 22(Suppl. 1), 10-17.