A number of birth centres were established in New South Wales as a result of the Shearman Report (NSW Health Department 1989). The objective of this study was to compare the obstetric outcomes, primarily caesarean section rates, of low-risk women presenting in spontaneous labour to the birth centre with those attending the hospital's conventional labour ward. The study showed that there was no significant difference in the caesarean section rate between the groups (3.5% in the birth centre and 4.3% in the labour ward). We suggest that the site of birthing does not affect clinical outcomes for low-risk women at this hospital. These results are relevant to contemporary clinical practice as they question the basis upon which birth centres have been popularised, that is, the medicalisation of birth in conventional labour wards increases intervention rates.