Effects of continuity of care by a primary midwife (caseload midwifery) on caesarean section rates in women of low obstetric risk: the COSMOS randomised controlled trial

BJOG. 2012 Nov;119(12):1483-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03446.x. Epub 2012 Jul 25.


Objective: To determine whether primary midwife care (caseload midwifery) decreases the caesarean section rate compared with standard maternity care.

Design: Randomised controlled trial.

Setting: Tertiary-care women's hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

Population: A total of 2314 low-risk pregnant women.

Methods: Women randomised to caseload received antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum care from a primary midwife with some care by 'back-up' midwives. Women randomised to standard care received either midwifery or obstetric-trainee care with varying levels of continuity, or community-based general practitioner care.

Primary outcome: caesarean birth. Secondary outcomes included instrumental vaginal births, analgesia, perineal trauma, induction of labour, infant admission to special/neonatal intensive care, gestational age, Apgar scores and birthweight.

Results: In total 2314 women were randomised-1156 to caseload and 1158 to standard care. Women allocated to caseload were less likely to have a caesarean section (19.4% versus 24.9%; risk ratio [RR] 0.78; 95% CI 0.67-0.91; P = 0.001); more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth (63.0% versus 55.7%; RR 1.13; 95% CI 1.06-1.21; P < 0.001); less likely to have epidural analgesia (30.5% versus 34.6%; RR 0.88; 95% CI 0.79-0.996; P = 0.04) and less likely to have an episiotomy (23.1% versus 29.4%; RR 0.79; 95% CI 0.67-0.92; P = 0.003). Infants of women allocated to caseload were less likely to be admitted to special or neonatal intensive care (4.0% versus 6.4%; RR 0.63; 95% CI 0.44-0.90; P = 0.01). No infant outcomes favoured standard care.

Conclusion: In settings with a relatively high baseline caesarean section rate, caseload midwifery for women at low obstetric risk in early pregnancy shows promise for reducing caesarean births.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration*
  • Episiotomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Extraction, Obstetrical / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Midwifery / organization & administration*
  • Postnatal Care / organization & administration*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / organization & administration*
  • Risk
  • Victoria