Obstetrics and Gynaecology - Research Publications

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    Factor's that impact on women's decision-making around prenatal genomic tests: An international discrete choice survey
    Buchanan, J ; Hill, M ; Vass, CM ; Hammond, J ; Riedijk, S ; Klapwijk, JE ; Harding, E ; Lou, S ; Vogel, I ; Hui, L ; Ingvoldstad-Malmgren, C ; Soller, MJ ; Ormond, KE ; Choolani, M ; Zheng, Q ; Chitty, LS ; Lewis, C (WILEY, 2022-04-30)
    OBJECTIVE: We conducted a survey-based discrete-choice experiment (DCE) to understand the test features that drive women's preferences for prenatal genomic testing, and explore variation across countries. METHODS: Five test attributes were identified as being important for decision-making through a literature review, qualitative interviews and quantitative scoring exercise. Twelve scenarios were constructed in which respondents choose between two invasive tests or no test. Women from eight countries who delivered a baby in the previous 24 months completed a DCE presenting these scenarios. Choices were modeled using conditional logit regression analysis. RESULTS: Surveys from 1239 women (Australia: n = 178; China: n = 179; Denmark: n = 88; Netherlands: n = 177; Singapore: n = 90; Sweden: n = 178; UK: n = 174; USA: n = 175) were analyzed. The key attribute affecting preferences was a test with the highest diagnostic yield (p < 0.01). Women preferred tests with short turnaround times (p < 0.01), and tests reporting variants of uncertain significance (VUS; p < 0.01) and secondary findings (SFs; p < 0.01). Several country-specific differences were identified, including time to get a result, who explains the result, and the return of VUS and SFs. CONCLUSION: Most women want maximum information from prenatal genomic tests, but our findings highlight country-based differences. Global consensus on how to return uncertain results is not necessarily realistic or desirable.
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    eLearning significantly improves maternity professionals' knowledge of the congenital cytomegalovirus prevention guidelines
    Smithers-Sheedy, H ; Swinburn, K ; Waight, E ; King, R ; Hui, L ; Jones, CA ; Daly, K ; Rawlinson, W ; Mcintyre, S ; Webb, A ; Badawi, N ; Bowen, A ; Britton, PN ; Palasanthiran, P ; Lainchbury, A ; Shand, A (WILEY, 2022-03-29)
    AIMS: Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a preventable cause of neurodevelopmental disability. Australian guidelines recommend that pregnant women are informed about CMV to reduce their risk of infection; however, less than 10% of maternity health professionals routinely provide prevention advice. The aim was to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of an eLearning course for midwives to improve knowledge and confidence about CMV. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Participants undertaking the course between March and November 2020 were invited to complete an evaluation questionnaire: before the course (T1), immediately after (T2) and three months post completion (T3). A linear mixed model was used to evaluate change in participant scores; P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: Midwives (316/363, 87%), midwifery students (29/363, 8%) and nurses (18/363, 5%) participated. At T1 80% indicated they had not received education about CMV. Total adjusted mean scores for questionnaires completed between T1 (n = 363) and T2 (n = 238) increased significantly (from 17.2 to 22.8, P < 0.001). Limited available T3 scores (n = 27) (-1.7, P < 0.001), while lower than T2, remained higher than at T1 (+3.6, P < 0.001). Participants' awareness of CMV information resources improved from 10 to 97% from T1 to T2. Confidence in providing CMV advice increased from 6 to 95% between T1 and T2 (P < 0.001) and was maintained at T3. Almost all (99%) participants indicated they would recommend the course to colleagues. CONCLUSION: Participants who completed the eLearning course had significantly improved knowledge and confidence in providing advice about CMV. Programs targeting other maternity health professionals should be considered, to further support the implementation of the congenital CMV prevention guidelines.
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    Assessing women's preferences towards tests that may reveal uncertain results from prenatal genomic testing: Development of attributes for a discrete choice experiment, using a mixed-methods design.
    Hammond, J ; Klapwijk, JE ; Riedijk, S ; Lou, S ; Ormond, KE ; Vogel, I ; Hui, L ; Sziepe, E-J ; Buchanan, J ; Ingvoldstad-Malmgren, C ; Soller, MJ ; Harding, E ; Hill, M ; Lewis, C ; Marshall, AT (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2022)
    Prenatal DNA tests, such as chromosomal microarray analysis or exome sequencing, increase the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis when fetal structural anomalies are identified. However, some parents will receive uncertain results such as variants of uncertain significance and secondary findings. We aimed to develop a set of attributes and associated levels for a discrete-choice experiment (DCE) that will examine parents' preferences for tests that may reveal uncertain test results. A two phase mixed-methods approach was used to develop attributes for the DCE. In Phase 1, a "long list" of candidate attributes were identified via two approaches: 1) a systematic review of the literature around parental experiences of uncertainty following prenatal testing; 2) 16 semi-structured interviews with parents who had experienced uncertainty during pregnancy and 25 health professionals who return uncertain prenatal results. In Phase 2, a quantitative scoring exercise with parents prioritised the candidate attributes. Clinically appropriate levels for each attribute were then developed. A final set of five attributes and levels were identified: likelihood of getting a result, reporting of variants of uncertain significance, reporting of secondary findings, time taken to receive results, and who tells you about your result. These attributes will be used in an international DCE study to investigate preferences and differences across countries. This research will inform best practice for professionals supporting parents to manage uncertainty in the prenatal setting.
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    Transcriptomic analysis of patient plasma reveals circulating miR200c as a potential biomarker for high-grade serous ovarian cancer
    Hannan, NJ ; Cohen, PA ; Beard, S ; Bilic, S ; Zhang, B ; Tong, S ; Whitehead, C ; Hui, L (ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC, 2021-12-20)
    BACKGROUND: High-grade serous tubo-ovarian cancer (HGSC) is the most common histological subtype of epithelial ovarian cancer, and highly lethal. Currently there is no effective screening test and prognosis is poor as the majority of cases are diagnosed at the advanced stage. Cell free RNAs including microRNAs (miRNAs) are dysregulated in ovarian cancer tissue and are detectable in the circulation. This study aimed to determine whether circulating cell free miRNAs may be potential biomarkers for the detection of HGSC. METHODS: Plasma was collected from women with HGSC (Grade 3, n = 24), and benign ovarian masses (n = 24). RNA was extracted from patient plasma and subjected to miRNA targeted next generation sequencing (NGS). A subsequent validation cohort was assessed using plasma collected from women with HGSC (n = 14) and controls (with a benign ovarian mass; n = 15). RNA was extracted and assessed using quantitative RT-PCR. RESULTS: Differential gene expression (DGE) of the NGS data revealed a significant increase in the miRNA, miR200c, in the circulation of women with HGSC (p less than 0.05) compared to controls. In the validation cohort miR200c expression by qPCR was found to also be increased in the circulation of women with HGSC compared to controls (p = 0.0023). CONCLUSIONS: Circulating miR200c may be a promising candidate biomarker for the detection of HGSC. Further larger cohort studies exploring earlier stages are needed to determine whether circulating miR200c may be a sensitive and specific biomarker of tubo-ovarian cancer.
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    State-wide increase in prenatal diagnosis of klinefelter syndrome on amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling: Impact of non-invasive prenatal testing for sex chromosome conditions
    Loughry, L ; Pynaker, C ; White, M ; Halliday, J ; Hui, L (WILEY, 2022-01-27)
    BACKGROUND: To analyze population-based trends in the prenatal diagnosis of sex chromosome aneuploidy (SCA) since the availability of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT). METHODS: Retrospective state-wide data for all prenatal diagnoses performed <25 weeks gestation from 2005 to 2020 in Victoria, Australia. Non-invasive prenatal testing became locally available from 2012. The prenatal diagnosis rates of SCA as proportions of all prenatal diagnostic tests and all births were calculated. Statistical significance was assessed with the χ2 test for trend, with p < 0.05 considered significant. RESULTS: 46,518 amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling were performed during the study period, detecting 617 SCAs. There was a significant increase in the rate of prenatal SCAs from 5.8 per 10,000 births in 2005 to 8.7 per 10,000 births in 2020 (p < 0.0001). This increase was predominantly due to 47,XXY cases, 91% of which were ascertained via positive NIPT for this condition in 2020. The prenatal diagnosis rate of 47,XXY significantly increased from 0.8 per 10,000 births in 2005 to 4.3 per 10,000 births in 2020 (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Screening for SCAs using NIPT has directly led to an increase in their prenatal diagnosis on a population-wide basis, especially 47,XXY. This has implications for clinician education, genetic counselling, and pediatric services.
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    Increase in preterm stillbirths and reduction in iatrogenic preterm births for fetal compromise: a multi-centre cohort study of COVID-19 lockdown effects in Melbourne, Australia
    Hui, L ; Marzan, MB ; Potenza, S ; Rolnik, D ; Pritchard, N ; Said, J ; Palmer, K ; Whitehead, C ; Sheehan, P ; Ford, J ; Mol, B ; Walker, S ( 2021-10-05)



    The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with a worsening of perinatal outcomes in many settings due to the combined impacts of maternal COVID-19 disease, disruptions to maternity care, and overloaded health systems. In 2020, Melbourne endured a unique natural experiment where strict lockdown conditions were accompanied by very low COVID-19 case numbers and the maintenance of health service capacity. The aim of this study was to compare stillbirth and preterm birth rates in women who were exposed or unexposed to lockdown restrictions during pregnancy.


    Retrospective multi-centre cohort study of perinatal outcomes before and during COVID-19 lockdown


    Birth outcomes from all 12 public maternity hospitals in metropolitan Melbourne

    Inclusion criteria

    Singleton births without congenital anomalies from 24 weeks’ gestation. The lockdown-exposed cohort were those women for whom weeks 20- 40 of gestation would have occurred during the lockdown period of 23 March 2020 to 14 March 2021. The control cohort comprised all pregnancies in the corresponding periods one and two years prior to the exposed cohort.

    Main outcome measures

    Odds of stillbirth, preterm birth (PTB), birth weight < 3 rd centile, and iatrogenic PTB for fetal compromise, adjusting for multiple covariates.


    There were 24,017 births in the exposed and 50,017 births in the control group. There was a significantly higher risk of preterm, but not term, stillbirth in the exposed group compared with the control group (0.26% vs 0.18%, aOR 1.49, 95%CI 1.08 to 2.05, P = 0.015). There was also a significant reduction in preterm birth < 37 weeks (5.93% vs 6.23%, aOR 0.93, 95%CI 0.87 to 0.99, P=0.03), largely mediated by a reduction in iatrogenic PTB for live births (3.01% vs 3.27%, aOR 0.89, 95%CI 0.81 to 0.98, P = 0.015), including iatrogenic PTB for suspected fetal compromise (1.25% vs 1.51%, aOR 0.79, 95%CI 0.69 to 0.91, P= 0.001). There was no significant difference in the spontaneous PTB rate between the exposed and control groups (2.69% vs 2.82%, aOR 0.94, 95%CI 0.86 to 0.1.03, P=0.25).


    Lockdown restrictions in a high-income setting, in the absence of high rates of COVID-19 disease, were associated with a significant increase in preterm stillbirths, and a significant reduction in iatrogenic PTB for suspected fetal compromise.

    Trial registration

    This study was registered as an observational study with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12620000878976).
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    Study protocol: childhood outcomes of fetal genomic variants: the PrenatAL Microarray (PALM) cohort study
    Hui, L ; Pynaker, C ; Kennedy, J ; Lewis, S ; Amor, DJ ; Walker, SP ; Halliday, J (BMC, 2021-10-11)
    BACKGROUND: The implementation of genomic testing in pregnancy means that couples have access to more information about their child's genetic make-up before birth than ever before. One of the resulting challenges is the management of genetic variations with unclear clinical significance. This population-based study will help to close this critical knowledge gap through a multidisciplinary cohort study of children with and without genomic copy number variants (CNVs) diagnosed before birth. By comparing children with prenatally-ascertained CNVs to children without a CNV, we aim to (1) examine their developmental, social-emotional and health status; (2) measure the impact of prenatal diagnosis of a CNV on maternal perceptions of child health, behavior and development; and (3) determine the proportion of prenatally-ascertained CNVs of unknown or uncertain significance that are reclassified as benign or pathogenic after 2 or more years. METHODS: This study will establish and follow up a cohort of mother-child pairs who have had a prenatal diagnosis with a chromosomal microarray from 2013-2019 in the Australian state of Victoria. Children aged 12 months to 7 years will be assessed using validated, age-appropriate measures. The primary outcome measures will be the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence IV (WPSSI-IV) IQ score (2.5 to 7 year old's), the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (12-30 months old), and the Brief Infant- Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (BITSEA) score. Clinical assessment by a pediatrician will also be performed. Secondary outcomes will be scores obtained from the: Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale, Maternal Postnatal Attachment Questionnaire, the Vulnerable Child Scale, Profile of Mood States, Parent Sense of Competence Scale. A descriptive analysis of the reclassification rates of CNVs after ≥2 years will be performed. DISCUSSION: This study protocol describes the first Australian cohort study following children after prenatal diagnostic testing with chromosomal microarray. It will provide long-term outcomes of fetal genomic variants to guide evidence-based pre-and postnatal care. This, in turn, will inform future efforts to mitigate the negative consequences of conveying genomic uncertainty during pregnancy. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12620000446965p ; Registered on April 6, 2020.
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    Accelerated fetal growth velocity across the third trimester is associated with increased shoulder dystocia risk among fetuses who are not large-for-gestational-age: A prospective observational cohort study
    MacDonald, TM ; Robinson, AJ ; Hiscock, RJ ; Hui, L ; Dane, KM ; Middleton, AL ; Kennedy, LM ; Tong, S ; Walker, SP ; Fujioka, K (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2021-10-20)
    OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether fetuses with accelerated third trimester growth velocity are at increased risk of shoulder dystocia, even when they are not large-for-gestational-age (LGA; estimated fetal weight (EFW) >95th centile). METHODS: Fetal growth velocity and birth outcome data were prospectively collected from 347 nulliparous women. Each had blinded ultrasound biometry performed at 28 and 36 weeks' gestation. Change in EFW and abdominal circumference (AC) centiles between 28-36 weeks were calculated, standardised over exactly eight weeks. We examined the odds of shoulder dystocia with increasing EFW and AC growth velocities among women with 36-week EFW ≤95th centile (non-LGA), who went on to have a vaginal birth. We then examined the relative risk (RR) of shoulder dystocia in cases of accelerated EFW and AC growth velocities (>30 centiles gained). Finally, we compared the predictive performances of accelerated fetal growth velocities to 36-week EFW >95th centile for shoulder dystocia among the cohort planned for vaginal birth. RESULTS: Of the 226 participants who had EFW ≤95th centile at 36-week ultrasound and birthed vaginally, six (2.7%) had shoulder dystocia. For each one centile increase in EFW between 28-36 weeks, the odds of shoulder dystocia increased by 8% (odds ratio (OR [95% Confidence Interval (CI)]) = 1.08 [1.04-1.12], p<0.001). For each one centile increase in AC between 28-36 weeks, the odds of shoulder dystocia increased by 9% (OR[95%CI] = 1.09 [1.05-1.12], p<0.001). When compared to the rest of the cohort with normal growth velocity, accelerated EFW and AC velocities were associated with increased relative risks of shoulder dystocia (RR[95%CI] = 7.3 [1.9-20.6], p = 0.03 and 4.8 [1.7-9.4], p = 0.02 respectively). Accelerated EFW or AC velocities predicted shoulder dystocia with higher sensitivity and positive predictive value than 36-week EFW >95th centile. CONCLUSIONS: Accelerated fetal growth velocities between 28-36 weeks' gestation are associated with increased risk of shoulder dystocia, and may predict shoulder dystocia risk better than the commonly used threshold of 36-week EFW >95th centile.
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    Collaborative maternity and newborn dashboard (CoMaND) for the COVID-19 pandemic: a protocol for timely, adaptive monitoring of perinatal outcomes in Melbourne, Australia
    Hui, L ; Marzan, MB ; Potenza, S ; Rolnik, DL ; Said, JM ; Palmer, KR ; Whitehead, CL ; Sheehan, PM ; Ford, J ; Pritchard, N ; Mol, BW ; Walker, SP (BMJ PUBLISHING GROUP, 2021-11-01)
    BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a range of unprecedented disruptions to maternity care with documented impacts on perinatal outcomes such as stillbirth and preterm birth. Metropolitan Melbourne has endured one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in globally. This paper presents the protocol for a multicentre study to monitor perinatal outcomes in Melbourne, Australia, during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: Multicentre observational study analysing monthly deidentified maternal and newborn outcomes from births >20 weeks at all 12 public maternity services in Melbourne. Data will be merged centrally to analyse outcomes and create run charts according to established methods for detecting non-random 'signals' in healthcare. Perinatal outcomes will include weekly rates of total births, stillbirths, preterm births, neonatal intensive care admissions, low Apgar scores and fetal growth restriction. Maternal outcomes will include weekly rates of: induced labour, caesarean section, births before arrival to hospital, postpartum haemorrhage, length of stay, general anaesthesia for caesarean birth, influenza and COVID-19 vaccination status, and gestation at first antenatal visit. A prepandemic median for all outcomes will be calculated for the period of January 2018 to March 2020. A significant shift is defined as ≥6 consecutive weeks, all above or below the prepandemic median. Additional statistical analyses such as regression, time series and survival analyses will be performed for an in-depth examination of maternal and perinatal outcomes of interests. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethics approval for the collaborative maternity and newborn dashboard project has been obtained from the Austin Health (HREC/64722/Austin-2020) and Mercy Health (ref. 2020-031). TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ACTRN12620000878976; Pre-results.