Obstetrician or family physician: are vaginal deliveries managed differently?

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2007 Oct;29(10):801-5. doi: 10.1016/s1701-2163(16)32631-7.


Background: In Canada, obstetricians and family physicians both provide obstetrical care. However, the effect of specialty training on obstetrical outcomes of low-risk pregnancies has not recently been evaluated. In this study we examine the role of specialty training on the management of vaginal deliveries.

Methods: We conducted a cohort study on all vaginal deliveries that took place at Sacré-Coeur Hospital between July 2000 and June 2006. We compared baseline characteristics of obstetricians and family physicians and used an unconditional logistic regression model to estimate the adjusted relative risk of undergoing different obstetrical interventions.

Results: Of a total 8807 vaginal deliveries, 1915 were conducted by eight obstetricians and 6892 were conducted by 21 family physicians. Apart from a higher rate of induction of labour in patients of obstetricians, baseline characteristics were comparable between the two groups. Overall rates of use of instruments were similar in the two groups; however, family physicians were less likely than obstetricians to perform an episiotomy (odds ratio [OR] 0.47; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.41-0.55) but more likely to have patients who sustained a perineal injury (OR 1.51; 95% CI 1.36-1.68). There were no differences in the incidence of third- and fourth-degree tears, and 5-minute Apgar scores were similar in both groups.

Conclusion: Obstetricians and family physicians differ in the performance of episiotomies, and their patients differ in the resulting type of perineal injury. Instrument use and neonatal outcomes were similar in both groups. Major maternal and neonatal morbidity are unlikely to differ whether women with low-risk pregnancies are delivered by an obstetrician or a family physician.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Episiotomy
  • Family Practice* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Induced
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Obstetrics* / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Retrospective Studies