WOMEN WHO ARE looked after by midwives rather than by doctors are more likely to have a better experience giving birth, a major new study has found.
Women were less likely to give birth early, had fewer epidurals, fewer episiotomies and fewer assisted births when midwives were the main providers of care throughout their pregnancy and birth, according to researchers at NUI Galway who worked with 3 universities in the UK to compile the information.
Researchers also found that women were no more likely to have a Caesarean birth but were in labour for about 30 minutes longer on average.
The team reviewed cases involving more than 16,000 women and compared the outcomes when they were looked after by midwives compared to when their care was shared between different obstetricians, GPs and midwives.
Ireland’s maternity services have changed over the past 15 years with an increase in midwife-led services but doctor-led care remains the norm. A significant report by KPMG in 2008 into maternity services in Dublin recommended the introduction of midwifery-led units close to obstetric units so that doctors would be immediately available if required.
Other countries – including Australia and the UK – have completely changed their policy so midwives now act as the main providers of care for women throughout pregnancy, labour and birth.
“This work has important policy implications and provides high quality evidence of the benefits for women and their infants of midwife-led models of care supported by multi-professional referral,” said Professor Declan Devane of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway.
“Other countries are using this to inform their maternity care policy and Ireland should do likewise.”
The study also found evidence that care provided by midwives was cheaper compared to shared care during labour.
The research was published in healthcare journal The Cochrane Library.