Expanding midwifery care in the United States: Implications for clinical outcomes and cost

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Abstract

Background: This study compared clinical and financial outcomes for low-risk birthing people between those attended by midwives and those attended by obstetricians during hospital births. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis of births from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2020 at hospitals participating in a perinatal quality improvement collaborative, Obstetrical Care Outcomes Assessment Program (OB COAP), in the Northwest region of the United States and estimated risk ratios using a multivariate regression approach with a modified Poisson binomial for mode of delivery, labor interventions, and newborn outcomes comparing midwife-led to obstetrician-led care. Using publicly available data on average costs of vaginal and cesarean births, we then extrapolated the cost differences in care between midwives and obstetricians. Results: Births in the midwife group were less likely to be associated with induction (17.6% vs. 20.3% RR 0.74; 95% CI 0.70–0.78), epidural use (58.9% vs. 76.3% RR 0.78; 95% CI 0.77–0.80), and episiotomy (2.2% vs. 3.4% RR 0.68; 95% CI 0.58–0.81). Cesarean birth was also lower in the midwifery group (7.8% vs. 12.3% RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.62–0.73), without a corresponding increase in risk in adverse neonatal outcomes. We estimated that expanding midwifery care to 100% of low-risk births across the United States could save as much as $340 million per year. Conclusions: Midwifery care is associated with a lower risk of cesarean birth and other interventions versus care provided by obstetricians and is therefore likely lower-cost.

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McLean, K. A., Souter, V. L., & Nethery, E. (2023). Expanding midwifery care in the United States: Implications for clinical outcomes and cost. Birth, 50(4), 935–945. https://doi.org/10.1111/birt.12748

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