Birthing centre care offers women with a low risk of complication in pregnancy an alternative to conventional care for the birthing of their baby It is important these two forms of care are appropriately assessed.
A randomised controlled trial comparing the newly opened birthing centre with the established conventional delivery suite was conducted at the then Queen Victoria Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia. The outcomes measured included maternal satisfaction, costs and clinical outcomes both for mother and baby which related to the need for Caesarean section, episiotomy or tear rate and method of feeding.
Two hundred and one women attending the hospital's antenatal clinic were randomly allocated to either birthing centre or delivery suite care. One hundred women were allocated to the birthing centre. No differences were found in either group related to clinical outcomes or costs. The only difference in maternal satisfaction was the choice women made for their next birth. More women in the birthing centre group felt they were encouraged to breastfeed immediately after birth.
While the numbers in this study were too small to detect any but large differences in outcome, birthing centre care should remain an option for women and further studies undertaken with larger numbers.