Investigating women's preferences for intrapartum care: home versus hospital births

Health Soc Care Community. 2001 Nov;9(6):404-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2524.2001.00319.x.


There is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that the clinical outcomes associated with a home birth for low risk women are at least as good, if not better than, the clinical outcomes associated with giving birth in hospital. If it is the case that there is little or no difference in clinical outcomes between the two modes of delivery, then traditional measures of benefit used in health economics, e.g. quality adjusted life years (QALYs), would detect little or no difference between the alternative modes of delivery. From this, the conclusion would be that the utility values associated with each mode of delivery are similar. However, women may still have clearly defined preferences relating to the way in which maternity care is provided. This paper uses the economic technique of conjoint analysis to assess the relative value attached to several main characteristics associated with the process of maternity care during the intrapartum stage for women who have actively chosen to give birth at home relative to women who have given birth in hospital. It was found that respondents who had chosen a home birth valued continuity of carer, a homely environment and the ability to make their own decisions about what happens during labour and delivery. In contrast, hospital birth respondents placed a relatively high value on access to an epidural for pain relief and not needing to be transferred to another location during labour if a problem arose. The results of the study suggest that women have clearly defined preferences for characteristics associated with the process of intrapartum care that would be unlikely to be detected by traditional benefit measures used in health economics. This finding is important where policy issues relating to aspects of maternity care service delivery are being considered.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery Rooms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Home Childbirth / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Motivation
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom