A review of more than 16,000 births has shown that midwife-led care cuts the risk of having a premature baby by almost a third.
It also shows women who are predominantly cared for by a midwife are less likely to have medical intervention and report being happier with their care.
“What is absolutely stunning about this review is that for the first time it shows midwife-led care reduces pre-term birth by almost a third,” Australian College of Midwives spokeswoman and University of Western Sydney midwifery professor Hannah Dahlen said.
“Pre-term birth is one of the leading causes of perinatal mortality and morbidity in the world.”
Prof Dahlen said past research indicated stress and a lack of support could be factors in premature birth and a midwife could counter this by being a calming influence.
“A midwife, who focuses on normalising birth, becomes a friend that follows them through the system that can be complex and scary.”
The review by the Cochrane Library also found women were 13-16 per cent less likely to need an epidural and episiotomy respectively and 12 per cent less likely to need a forceps during their labour.
Women who had midwife care were less likely to give birth before 37 weeks or lose their baby before 24 weeks.
They were no more likely to have a caesarean birth, but had labours that lasted 30 minutes longer on average.
“Women’s chances of being cared for in labour by a midwife she had got to know and having a spontaneous vaginal birth were also increased,” the report said.
Researcher Jane Sandall, from Kings College London, said more women with low-risk pregnancies should be offered midwife-led care.
The report analysed births in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
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