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Soc Sci Med. 1993 Nov;37(10):1233-50.

Midwifery care and out-of-hospital birth settings: how do they reduce unnecessary cesarean section births?

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1
Health Policy Institute, Boston University, MA 02215.

Abstract

In studies using matched or adjusted cohorts, U.S. women beginning labor with midwives and/or in out-of-hospital settings have attained cesarean section rates that are considerably lower than similar women using prevailing forms of care--physicians in hospitals. This cesarean reduction involved no compromise in mortality and morbidity outcome measures. Moreover, groups of women at elevated risk for adverse perinatal outcomes have attained excellent outcomes and cesarean rates well below the general population rate with these care arrangements. How do midwives and out-of-hospital birth settings so effectively help women to avoid unnecessary cesareans? This paper explores this question by presenting data from interviews with midwives who work in home settings. The midwives' understanding of and approaches to major medical indications for cesarean birth contrast strikingly with prevailing medical knowledge and practice. From the midwives' perspective, many women receive cesareans due to pseudo-problems, to problems that might easily be prevented, or to problems that might be addressed through less drastic measures. Policy reports addressing the problem of unnecessary cesarean births in the U.S. have failed to highlight the substantial reduction in such births that may be expected to accompany greatly expanded use of midwives and out-of-hospital birth settings. The present study--together with cohort studies documenting such a reduction, studies showing other benefits of such forms of care, and the increasing reluctance of physicians to provide obstetrical services--suggests that childbearing families would realize many benefits from greatly expanded use of midwives and out-of-hospital birth settings.

PMID:
8272902
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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