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Keywords:

  • family practitioners;
  • maternal birth experience;
  • maternal outcomes;
  • midwives;
  • nurses;
  • obstetricians

Abstract:  Background:  In Canada maternity care is publicly funded, and although women may choose their care providers, choices may be limited. The purpose of this study was to compare perceptions of maternity outcomes and experiences of those who received care from midwives with those who received care from other providers.

Methods:  Based on the 2006 Canadian census, a random sample of women (= 6,421) who had recently given birth in Canada completed a computer-assisted telephone interview for the Maternity Experiences Survey. The sample was stratified according to province or territory where birth occurred, age, rural or urban residence, and presence of other children in the home. Those who were 15 years of age and older, gave birth to a singleton baby, and were living with their infant were eligible for inclusion.

Results:  Women whose primary prenatal providers were midwives had fewer ultrasounds and were more likely to attend prenatal classes and have at least five or more prenatal visits. They were also more likely to rate satisfaction with their maternity experience as “very positive” and be satisfied with information provided on a variety of pregnancy and birth topics if their primary prenatal provider was a midwife. They were almost half as likely to experience induction and 7.33 times more likely to experience a medication-free delivery. They were more likely to initiate and maintain breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months.

Conclusions:  Evidence shows that midwifery outcomes and levels of satisfaction meet or exceed Canadian maternity care standards. Facilitation of the continuing integration of midwives as autonomous practitioners throughout Canada is recommended. (BIRTH 38:3 September 2011)