Mobile phone-based behavioral interventions in pregnancy to promote maternal and fetal health in high-income countries: Systematic review

Tasmeen Hussain, Patricia Smith, Lynn M. Yee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic diseases have recently had an increasing effect on maternal-fetal health, especially in high-income countries. However, there remains a lack of discussion regarding health management with technological approaches, including mobile health (mHealth) interventions. Objective: This study aimed to systematically evaluate mHealth interventions used in pregnancy in high-income countries and their effects on maternal health behaviors and maternal-fetal health outcomes. Methods: This systematic review identified studies published between January 1, 2000, and November 30, 2018, in MEDLINE via PubMed, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and gray literature. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they included only pregnant women in high-income countries and evaluated stand-alone mobile phone interventions intended to promote healthy maternal beliefs, behaviors, and/or maternal-fetal health outcomes. Two researchers independently reviewed and categorized aspects of full-text articles, including source, study design, intervention and control, duration, participant age, attrition rate, main outcomes, and risk of bias. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were followed, and the study was registered in PROSPERO before initiation. Results: Of the 2225 records examined, 28 studies were included and categorized into 4 themes: (1) gestational weight gain, obesity and physical activity (n=9); (2) smoking cessation (n=9); (3) influenza vaccination (n=2); and (4) general prenatal health, preventive strategies, and miscellaneous topics (n=8). Reported sample sizes ranged from 16 to 5243 with a median of 91. Most studies were performed in the United States (18/28, 64%) and were randomized controlled trials (21/28, 75%). All participants in the included studies were pregnant at the time of study initiation. Overall, 14% (4/28) of studies showed association between intervention use and improved health outcomes; all 4 studies focused on healthy gestational weight. Among those, 3 studies showed intervention use was associated with less overall gestational weight gain. These 3 studies involved interventions with text messaging or an app in combination with another communication strategy (Facebook or email). Regarding smoking cessation, influenza vaccination, and miscellaneous topics, there was some evidence of positive effects on health behaviors and beliefs, but very limited correlation with improved health outcomes. Data and interventions were heterogeneous, precluding a meta-analysis. Conclusions: In high-income countries, utilization of mobile phone-based health behavior interventions in pregnancy demonstrates some correlation with positive beliefs, behaviors, and health outcomes. More effective interventions are multimodal in terms of features and tend to focus on healthy gestational weight gain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15111
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Chronic disease
  • Health behavior
  • MHealth
  • Mobile applications
  • Mobile health
  • Pregnancy
  • Smartphone
  • Software
  • Text messaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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