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Models of maternity care: evidence for midwifery continuity of care

Caroline SE Homer
Med J Aust 2016; 205 (8): 370-374. || doi: 10.5694/mja16.00844
Published online: 17 October 2016

Summary

  • There has been substantial reform in the past decade in the provision of maternal and child health services, and specifically regarding models of maternity care. Increasingly, midwives are working together in small groups to provide midwife-led continuity of care.
  • This article reviews the current evidence for models of maternity care that provide midwifery continuity of care, in terms of their impact on clinical outcomes, the views of midwives and childbearing women, and health service costs.
  • A systematic review of midwife-led continuity of care models identified benefits for women and babies, with no adverse effects.
  • Non-randomised studies have shown benefits of midwifery continuity of care for specific groups, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. There are also benefits for midwives, including high levels of job satisfaction and less occupational burnout.
  • Implementing midwifery continuity of care in public and private settings in Australia has been challenging, despite the evidence in its favour and government policy documents that support it.
  • A reorganisation of the way maternity services are provided in Australia is required to ensure that women across the country can access this model of care. Critical to such reform is collaboration with obstetricians, general practitioners, paediatricians and other medical professionals involved in the care of pregnant women, as well as professional respect for the central role of midwives in the provision of maternity care.
  • More research is needed into ways to ensure that all childbearing women can access midwifery continuity of care.

  • Caroline SE Homer

  • Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW

Correspondence: caroline.homer@uts.edu.au

Competing interests:

I was an author of two of the trials included in the Cochrane review on midwife-led care and was a co-author of other studies referred to in this review.

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