Childbirth policies and practices in Ireland and the journey towards midwifery-led care

Midwifery. 2007 Mar;23(1):92-101. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2005.08.006. Epub 2006 May 4.


Objective: To describe the dominant policies and practices that have governed childbirth in Ireland, and to outline the progress made towards the introduction of midwifery-led care in one health region.

Literature review: A review of maternity-care policies in Ireland was conducted using government and regional health-authority documents and two historical reviews of government policies. A search was also carried out in PubMed and cinahl databases, using the keywords 'maternity care', 'childbirth', 'policy', 'midwifery-led', 'Ireland/Irish', with relevant Boolean and string operands. Childbirth as a social process is influenced by the model of care, and affects the physical and psychological outcomes for the woman and her family. In Ireland, routine intervention in labour is common, but, since the early 1990s, some changes in the Irish maternity services have taken place. Pilot projects on community midwifery have been introduced in some areas. Challenges to the provision of maternity care in the Health Service Executive, North Eastern area (formerly the North-Eastern Health Board) led to the production of the Kinder report, which included a recommendation to introduce pilot midwifery-led units (MLUs). THE INTRODUCTION OF MIDWIFERY-LED CARE: A Maternity Services Taskforce was established in January 2002 with a wide remit, including facilitation of the establishment of MLUs in Cavan General Hospital, Cavan and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co. Louth. The MLUs are being evaluated within the context of a randomised trial known as 'the MidU study', which compares midwife-led care with the present system of medical-led care for women who are at low risk of complications during pregnancy and labour.

Conclusion: The journey to midwifery-led care in Ireland has been a long one. The phased introduction of MLUs, which are subject to rigorous evaluation, will provide quality evidence upon which to base the future development of maternity care across Ireland.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Leadership*
  • Maternal Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Midwifery / organization & administration*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / nursing
  • Quality of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Women's Health