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ABSTRACT:

Through a mail survey in 1991, we compared the opinions of 597 physicians practicing obstetrics, 723 maternity care nurses, and 70 midwives from the province of Quebec, Canada, about selected maternity care issues, including the practice of midwifery. Results showed that divergent points of view existed between and within the three groups on many maternity care issues. Physicians were more divided over the routine use of obstetric intervention than the approach to care or their opinion about midwives. Midwives held more client-centered and less interventionist attitudes than nurses or physicians. Nurses were much more open to midwives than physicians, but 20 to 30 percent of physicians saw some advantages in legalizing the practice of midwifery. Physicians and nurses generally considered midwives as a greater professional threat to the other group than to themselves. The fact that many physicians were critical of current maternity care is difjcult to reconcile with their general opposition to midwives. How and to what extent physicians will respond to women's desire for more humanized and less interventionist care remains an open question. Given the problems facing maternity care in North America, expanding midwifery services is an alternative to examine seriously. (BIRTH 21:2, June 1994)