This study analyses retrospectively the outcome of labour in 3,058 consecutive low risk nulliparous women in spontaneous labour at term in public and private care at the Mater Mothers' Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland. Differing rates of spontaneous, instrumental or Caesarean deliveries were found between the public and private cohorts (spontaneous vaginal delivery 73.7% public, 48.6% private; instrumental 17.9% public, 35.4% private; Caesarean section 8.4% public, 16% private). These differences were all highly statistically significant (p less than .001). Other statistically significant differences were evident in durations of labour and second stage of labour. Demographically the 2 groups were dissimilar, illustrated by differences in age distribution. Correcting for age difference failed to account for the differences in frequency of delivery methods between the private and public groups.