• evidence-based practices;
  • midwifery;
  • Mexico;
  • normal birth;
  • quality of care

Introduction: We evaluated the quality of basic obstetric care provided by Mexican general physicians, obstetric nurses, and professional midwives compared with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for evidence-based practices and national guidelines.

Methods: Vaginal births were observed in 5 hospitals in 5 states from June 2006 until July 2007. We created 5 indices based on WHO guidelines and national standards for care during normal birth. These indices included 1) favorable practices at admission, 2) favorable practices during labor, birth, and immediately postpartum, 3) harmful or excessively used practices, 4) newborn practices, and 5) obstetric outcomes. We assessed each provider type's performance as high or low compared with the WHO standard and performed bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses to assess the association between indices, patient characteristics, and provider type, adjusting for standard errors for intragroup correlation.

Results: We observed 876 independently managed vaginal births. Adjusted regression analyses compared with the general physicians standard revealed significant results for favorable care by obstetric nurses on admission (odds ratio [OR] 6.25; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.08-18.84); for care by professional midwives (OR 21.08; 95% CI, 4.24-104.94) and obstetric nurses (OR 7.88; 95% CI, 2.76-22.52) during labor, birth, and postpartum; and for newborn practices by obstetric nurses (OR 4.14; 95% CI, 1.08-15.90). Professional midwives were least likely to perform harmful/excessively used practices during labor, birth, and the postpartum period (OR 0.06; 95% CI, 0.00-0.35).

Discussion: Professional midwives and obstetric nurses perform equally or better than general physicians when assessed by use or misuse of evidence-based practices. Professional midwives are an underutilized resource in Mexico. If integrated into the mainstream Mexican health system, they may improve the quality of obstetric care.