Midwives are primary providers of care for childbearing women around the world. However, there is a lack of synthesised information to establish whether there are differences in morbidity and mortality, effectiveness and psychosocial outcomes between midwife-led continuity models and other models of care.
To compare midwife-led continuity models of care with other models of care for childbearing women and their infants.
We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (25 January 2016) and reference lists of retrieved studies.
All published and unpublished trials in which pregnant women are randomly allocated to midwife-led continuity models of care or other models of care during pregnancy and birth.
Two review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion and risk of bias, extracted data and checked them for accuracy. The quality of the evidence was assessed using the GRADE approach.
We included 15 trials involving 17,674 women. We assessed the quality of the trial evidence for all primary outcomes (i.e. regional analgesia (epidural/spinal), caesarean birth, instrumental vaginal birth (forceps/vacuum), spontaneous vaginal birth, intact perineum, preterm birth (less than 37 weeks) and all fetal loss before and after 24 weeks plus neonatal death using the GRADE methodology: all primary outcomes were graded as of high quality.For the primary outcomes, women who had midwife-led continuity models of care were less likely to experience regional analgesia (average risk ratio (RR) 0.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.78 to 0.92; participants = 17,674; studies = 14; high quality), instrumental vaginal birth (average RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.83 to 0.97; participants = 17,501; studies = 13; high quality), preterm birth less than 37 weeks (average RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.91; participants = 13,238; studies = eight; high quality) and less all fetal loss before and after 24 weeks plus neonatal death (average RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.99; participants = 17,561; studies = 13; high quality evidence). Women who had midwife-led continuity models of care were more likely to experience spontaneous vaginal birth (average RR 1.05, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.07; participants = 16,687; studies = 12; high quality). There were no differences between groups for caesarean births or intact perineum.For the secondary outcomes, women who had midwife-led continuity models of care were less likely to experience amniotomy (average RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.98; participants = 3253; studies = four), episiotomy (average RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.77 to 0.92; participants = 17,674; studies = 14) and fetal loss less than 24 weeks and neonatal death (average RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.98; participants = 15,645; studies = 11). Women who had midwife-led continuity models of care were more likely to experience no intrapartum analgesia/anaesthesia (average RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.37; participants = 10,499; studies = seven), have a longer mean length of labour (hours) (mean difference (MD) 0.50, 95% CI 0.27 to 0.74; participants = 3328; studies = three) and more likely to be attended at birth by a known midwife (average RR 7.04, 95% CI 4.48 to 11.08; participants = 6917; studies = seven). There were no differences between groups for fetal loss equal to/after 24 weeks and neonatal death, induction of labour, antenatal hospitalisation, antepartum haemorrhage, augmentation/artificial oxytocin during labour, opiate analgesia, perineal laceration requiring suturing, postpartum haemorrhage, breastfeeding initiation, low birthweight infant, five-minute Apgar score less than or equal to seven, neonatal convulsions, admission of infant to special care or neonatal intensive care unit(s) or in mean length of neonatal hospital stay (days).Due to a lack of consistency in measuring women's satisfaction and assessing the cost of various maternity models, these outcomes were reported narratively. The majority of included studies reported a higher rate of maternal satisfaction in midwife-led continuity models of care. Similarly, there was a trend towards a cost-saving effect for midwife-led continuity care compared to other care models.
This review suggests that women who received midwife-led continuity models of care were less likely to experience intervention and more likely to be satisfied with their care with at least comparable adverse outcomes for women or their infants than women who received other models of care.Further research is needed to explore findings of fewer preterm births and fewer fetal deaths less than 24 weeks, and all fetal loss/neonatal death associated with midwife-led continuity models of care.