Background: In 1990 a pilot nurse-midwifery program was implemented in a tertiary care hospital in a major western Canadian city. a randomized, controlled trial was conducted to determine if, when maternal and newborn patient outcomes were compared, the midwifery program was as effective as traditional, low-risk health care available in the city.
Methods: All low-risk women who requested and qualified for nurse-midwifery care were randomly assigned to an experimental or control group.
Results: One hundred one women received care from nurse-midwives and 93 received standard care from either an obstetrician or family physician. The rate of cesarean delivery in the nurse-midwife group was 4 percent compared with 15.1 percent in the physician group. The episiotomy rate, excluding cesarean deliveries, for the nurse-midwife group was 15.5 percent compared with 32.9 percent in the physician group. The rates of epidural anesthesia for pain relief in labor were 12.9 percent and 23.7 percent, respectively. Statistically significant differences were found ultrasound examinations, amniotomy, intravenous drug administration during labor, dietary supplements, length of hospital stay, and admission of infants to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Conclusions: The results clearly support the effectiveness of the pilot nurse-midwifery program and suggest that more extensive participation of midwives in the Canadian health care system is an appropriate use of health care dollars.