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Factors affecting the use of antibiotics and antiseptics to prevent maternal infection at birth: A global mixed-methods systematic review.

Eddy KE, Zahroh RI, Bohren MA, Bonet M, Homer CSE, Vogel JP

  • Journal PloS one

  • Published 01 Sep 2022

  • Volume 17

  • ISSUE 9

  • Pagination e0272982

  • DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0272982


Over 10% of maternal deaths annually are due to sepsis. Prophylactic antibiotics and antiseptic agents are critical interventions to prevent maternal peripartum infections. We conducted a mixed-method systematic review to better understand factors affecting the use of prophylactic antibiotics and antiseptic agents to prevent peripartum infections.

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Emcare, CINAHL, Global Health, Global Index Medicus, and Maternity and Infant Care for studies published between 1 January 1990 and 27 May 2022. We included primary qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies that focused on women, families, and healthcare providers' perceptions and experiences of prophylactic antibiotic and antiseptics during labour and birth in health facilities. There were no language restrictions. We used a thematic synthesis approach for qualitative evidence and GRADE-CERQual approach for assessing confidence in these review findings. Quantitative study results were mapped to the qualitative findings and reported narratively.

We included 19 studies (5 qualitative, 12 quantitative and 2 mixed-methods studies), 16 relating to antibiotics, 2 to antiseptic use, and 1 study to both antibiotic and antiseptic use. Most related to providers' perspectives and were conducted in high-income countries. Key themes on factors affecting antibiotic use were providers' beliefs about benefits and harms, perceptions of women's risk of infection, regimen preferences and clinical decision-making processes. Studies on antiseptic use explored women's perceptions of vaginal cleansing, and provider's beliefs about benefits and the usefulness of guidelines.

We identified a range of factors affecting how providers use prophylactic antibiotics at birth, which can undermine implementation of clinical guidelines. There were insufficient data for low-resource settings, women's perspectives, and regarding use of antiseptics, highlighting the need for further research in these areas. Implications for practice include that interventions to improve prophylactic antibiotic use should take account of local environments and perceived infection risk and ensure contextually relevant guidance.