Objective: To evaluate Nepal's first independent midwifery unit, the Patan Hospital Birthing Centre (BC), as a model for training and service provision for low risk deliveries. Specifically, to compare its efficacy with that of an adjacent Consultant-led Maternity Unit (CMU).
Methods: Unpaired comparison of delivery procedures and outcomes at the Patan Hospital, Lalitpur. The sample was 988 women (550 at BC, 438 at CMU). Women judged to be at low risk of complications were enrolled at delivery at each facility. Information was collected by standardized interviews and record review. Main outcome measures were incidence of complications of labour, technical procedures and access to postnatal care and family planning services.
Results: Artificial rupture of membranes was more likely to be performed at the BC (RR 1.26, 95% CI 1.10-1.44). Augmentation of labour with oxytocin was less likely to be performed (RR 0.26, 95% CI 0.20-0.33), as was episiotomy (RR 0.64, 95% CI 0.57-0.72). The incidence of oxytocic augmentation was high at the CMU (205/438: 46.9%). The incidence of moderately or thickly meconium-stained liquor was lower at the BC than at the CMU (RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.43-0.91), a finding that was associated with oxytocic augmentation of labour. No significant differences were found for duration or complications of labour, mode of delivery, birth weight, neonatal Apgar score or admission to the special care baby unit. Women delivering at the BC were more likely to attend both postnatal (RR 1.33, 95% CI 1.18-1.51) and family planning clinics (RR 1.85, 95% CI 1.44-2.38).
Conclusions: After appropriate screening, intrapartum care for low risk deliveries is effectively provided by midwives. The Birthing Centre model should be considered throughout the developing world, particularly as a site for training of skilled attendants.