Background: The purpose of this study was to compare the obstetric outcome of low-risk maternity patients attended by certified midwives with that of low-risk maternity patients attended by obstetricians.
Patients and methods: Obstetric outcome of 1352 midwife patients was compared with that of 1352 age- and parity-matched physician patients with normal spontaneous vaginal delivery at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the University Hospital Vienna during the period from January 1997 to July 2002. Our analysis was restricted to a sample of low-risk pregnant women. Women with medical or obstetric risk factors were excluded.
Results: A significant decrease in the use of oxytocin (p=0.0001) was observed in women who selected a midwife as their primary birth attendant compared with women in the physician group. In both groups most women gave birth in a supine position; however, significantly more alternative birth positions were used by midwife patients (p = 0.0001). Concerning perineal trauma, a significantly lower rate of episiotomies (p = 0.0001) and perineal tears of all degrees (p=0.006) were found in midwife patients. When analyzing severe postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum infections, there were no significant differences between the two groups (p > 0.05). Concerning neonatal outcome, there were no significant differences in APGAR score < 7 at 5 minutes (p > 0.05). Our data clearly show the ability of certified midwives to successfully provide prenatal care and delivery to low-risk maternity patients, with neonatal outcomes comparable to those of physician patients. The use of certified midwives supervised by obstetricians may provide the optimum model for perinatal care, particularly for those women who are low-risk maternity patients, leaving physicians free to attend to the high-risk elements of care.