The Yolo County Midwifery Service was begun in January 1989 to serve pregnant low-income women who were denied care by local obstetricians. In 1990, 58% of women served were Latina and 33% were Anglo-white. Their mean age was 24.5 ± 5.5 years, and their mean level of education was 9.9 ± 3.5 years. Thirty-seven percent were nulliparous. All deliveries were at the only hospital in the county with a maternity service. To evaluate the effectiveness of nurse-midwifery care in this sample, a prospective study of the service's 496 singleton birth outcomes during 1990 was undertaken.

Although the cesarean rate in 1990 for the obstetricians not associated with the midwifery service at this hospital was 20.6%, the midwifery clients experienced a primary cesarean birth rate of 3.7% and a total rate of 6.7%. Instrument-assisted deliveries took place for 1.0% of births. The success rate for women attempting vaginal birth after cesarean was 87.2%. Delivery over an intact perineum occurred for 51.8%. Preterm birth was experienced by only 1.0% of the women. A newborn birth weight of < 2,500 g occurred in 2.4% of births. Occult cord prolapse preceded a single neonatal death, resulting in a perinatal and neonatal death rate of two per 1,000.

These data add to the growing body of information about nurse-midwifery in which that care is found to be a safe, well-accepted, and cost-effective adjunct to existing obstetric care services.