Objective To test whether a new community-based model of continuity of care provided by midwives and obstetricians improved maternal clinical outcomes, in particular a reduced caesarean section rate.
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting A public teaching hospital in metropolitan Sydney, Australia.
Sample 1089 women randomised to either the community-based model (n= 550) or standard hospital-based care (n= 539) prior to their first antenatal booking visit at an Australian metropolitan public hospital.
Main outcome measures Data were collected on onset and outcomes of labour, antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal complications, antenatal admissions to hospital and neonatal mortality and morbidity.
Results There was a significant difference in the caesarean section rate between the groups, 13.3% (73/550) in the community-based group and 17.8% in the control group (96/539). This difference was maintained after controlling for known contributing factors to caesarean section (OR=0.6, 95% CI 0.4–0.9, P= 0.02). There were no other significant differences in the events during labour and birth. Eighty babies (14.5%) from the community-based group and 102 (18.9%) from the control group were admitted to the special care nursery, but this difference was not significant (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.5-1.1, P= 0.12). Eight infants died during the perinatal period (four from each group), for an overall perinatal mortality rate of 7.3 per 1000 births.
Conclusion Community-based continuity of maternity care provided by midwives and obstetricians resulted in a significantly reduced caesarean section rate. There were no other differences in clinical outcomes.