Volume 105, Issue 8 p. 836-848

The association between maternal HIV infection and perinatal outcome: a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis

Peter Brocklehurst

Corresponding Author

Peter Brocklehurst

Unit Epidemiologist

National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford

Correspondence: Dr P. Brocklehurst, Pennatal Trials Service, National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HE, UK.Search for more papers by this author
Rebecca French

Rebecca French

Research Fellow

Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, The Mortimer Market Centre, London

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First published: 19 August 2005
Citations: 311


Objective To investigate the association between maternal HIV infection and perinatal outcome by a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis.

Methods Appropriate publications were identified using electronic and hand searching of relevant journals from 1983 to 1996. Studies were included in the review if they were prospective cohorts with pregnant women identified as being HIV-infected with a control group of pregnant women who were not infected with HIV. Methodological quality was assessed for each study. Data were extracted for pre-determined outcome measures. Sensitivity analyses were performed to explore the association between HIV infection and an adverse perinatal outcome for the following study characteristics: clinical setting (developed or developing countries), methodological quality (high or poor) and whether studies controlled for potential confounding.

Results Thirty-one studies were eligible to be included in the review. The summary odds ratio of the risk of pre-defined adverse perinatal outcomes related to maternal HIV infection were as follows: spontaneous abortion 4.05 (95% CI 2.75–5.96); stillbirth 3.91 (95% CI 2.65.5–5.77); fetal abnormality 1.08 (95% CI 0.7–1.66); perinatal mortality 1.79 (95% CI 1.14–24.31); neonatal mortality 1.10 (95% CI 0.63–1.93); infant mortality 3.69 (95% CI 3.03–4.49); intrauterine growth retardation 1.7 (95% CI 1.43–2.02); low birthweight 2.09 (95% CI 1.86–2.35) and pre-term delivery 1.83 (95% CI 1.63–2.06). Sensitivity analyses showed that the association between infant mortality and maternal HIV infection was stronger in studies conducted in developing countries when compared with developed countries [odds ratios (OR) 3.72 (95% CI 3.05–4.54) and 8.6 (95% CI 0.53–141.05), respectively]; studies of higher methodological quality compared with those of poorer quality [odds ratios 14.57 (95% CI 6.93–30.65) and 3.37 (95% CI 2.74.14), respectively] and studies which had used restriction or matching to control for potential confounding factors compared with those that had not [OR 11.60 (95% CI 5.71–23.58) and 3.35 (95% CI 2.73–4.12), respectively].

Conclusions The findings of this review have implications for women infected with HIV who are planning a pregnancy or who find themselves pregnant. There appears to be an association, although not strong, between maternal HIV infection and an adverse perinatal outcome. This relationship may be due to bias including uncontrolled or residual confounding. There does, however, appear to be a real and large increase in the risk of infant death in developing countries associated with maternal HIV infection, especially so when there has been an attempt to control for confounding.