Women are less likely to need an epidural, forceps or ventouse delivery if midwives lead their care, research shows.
They are also less likely to experience premature birth, compared to other types of care, including that led by GPs or consultants.
Experts analysed data involving 16,242 women from 13 studies carried out in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
Their findings confirm previous research that midwife-led care results in fewer interventions for women.
The team found women were 13 per cent less likely to need an epidural, 16 per cent less likely to need an episiotomy (surgical incision to reduce the risk of a tear) and 12 per cent less likely to need a forceps or ventouse delivery if midwives oversaw the birth.
Women were more likely to give birth naturally, but did have slightly longer labors of an extra 30 minutes on average.
Those cared for by a midwife in pregnancy were also less likely to lose the baby before 24 weeks gestation, although there was no difference in pregnancies over 24 weeks.
The experts says midwife-led continuity of care was associated with several benefits for mothers and babies, and had no identified adverse effects compared with models of medical-led care and shared care.
‘The main benefits were a reduction in the use of epidurals, with fewer episiotomies or instrumental births,’ they said.
‘Women’s chances of being cared for in labor by a midwife she had got to know, and having a spontaneous vaginal birth were also increased.
‘There was no difference in the number of Caesarean births.’
The team said women with high-risk pregnancies should still have the chance to consult specialist doctors and there should be clear guidance for midwives to refer women to other professionals.
‘The review concludes that most women should be offered midwife-led continuity models of care, although caution should be exercised in applying this advice to women with substantial medical or obstetric complications,’ they wrote.
The research included experts from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the National University of Ireland in Galway, Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Warwick.
It was published by the Cochrane Library.
Professor Declan Devane, from the National University of Ireland, said the work had important policy implications and provides high quality evidence of the benefits for women and their infants of midwife-led models of care ‘supported by appropriate multi-professional referral.’
And a statement from the Royal College of Midwives said it was a very important and welcome review which added to a growing body of clinical evidence that childbirth outcomes for women are significantly influenced by the type of maternity services they receive.
‘This research shows that having the same midwife provides significant benefits for women who have a medium or low risk during their pregnancy,’ it said.
‘The writing is on the wall: this research shows that midwife-led care is what mothers and babies need and deserve.’
Article Source: Sky News