Objective: to explores preferences, characteristics and motives regarding place of birth of low-risk nulliparous women in the Netherlands.
Design: a prospective cohort study of low-risk nulliparous women and their partners starting their pregnancy in midwifery-led care or in obstetric-led care. Data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire, including questions on demographic, psychosocial and pregnancy factors and statements about motives with regard to place of birth. Depression, worry and self-esteem were explored using the Edinburgh Depression Scale (EDS), the Cambridge Worry Scale (CWS) and the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale (RSE).
Setting: participants were recruited in 100 independent midwifery practices and 14 hospitals from 2007 to 2011.
Participants: 550 low-risk nulliparous women; 231 women preferred a home birth, 170 women a hospital birth in midwifery-led care and 149 women a birth in obstetric-led care.
Findings: Significant differences in characteristics were found in the group who preferred a birth in obstetric-led care compared to the two groups who preferred midwifery-led care. Those women were older (F (2,551)=16.14, p<0.001), had a higher family income (χ(2) (6)=18.87, p=0.004), were more frequently pregnant after assisted reproduction (χ(2)(2)=35.90, p<0.001) and had a higher rate of previous miscarriage (χ(2)(2)=25.96, p<0.001). They also differed significantly on a few emotional aspects: more women in obstetric-led care had symptoms of a major depressive disorder (χ(2)(2)=6.54, p=0.038) and were worried about health issues (F (2,410)=8.90, p<0.001). Women's choice for a home birth is driven by a desire for greater personal autonomy, whereas women's choice for a hospital birth is driven by a desire to feel safe and control risks.
Key conclusions: the characteristics of women who prefer a hospital birth are different than the characteristics of women who prefer a home birth. It appears that for women preferring a hospital birth, the assumed safety of the hospital is more important than type of care provider. This brings up the question whether women are fully aware of the possibilities of maternity care services. Women might need concrete information about the availability and the characteristics of the services within the maternity care system and the risks and benefits associated with either setting, in order to make an informed choice where to give birth.
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