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      Variation in referrals to secondary obstetrician-led care among primary midwifery care practices in the Netherlands: a nationwide cohort study

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          The primary aim of this study was to describe the variation in intrapartum referral rates in midwifery practices in the Netherlands. Secondly, we wanted to explore the association between the practice referral rate and a woman’s chance of an instrumental birth (caesarean section or vaginal instrumental birth).


          We performed an observational study, using the Dutch national perinatal database. Low risk births in all primary care midwifery practices over the period 2008–2010 were selected. Intrapartum referral rates were calculated. The referral rate among nulliparous women was used to divide the practices in three tertile groups. In a multilevel logistic regression analysis the association between the referral rate and the chance of an instrumental birth was examined.


          The intrapartum referral rate varied from 9.7 to 63.7 percent (mean 37.8; SD 7.0), and for nulliparous women from 13.8 to 78.1 percent (mean 56.8; SD 8.4). The variation occurred predominantly in non-urgent referrals in the first stage of labour. In the practices in the lowest tertile group more nulliparous women had a spontaneous vaginal birth compared to the middle and highest tertile group (T1: 77.3%, T2:73.5%, T3: 72.0%). For multiparous women the spontaneous vaginal birth rate was 97%. Compared to the lowest tertile group the odds ratios for nulliparous women for an instrumental birth were 1.22 (CI 1.16-1.31) and 1.33 (CI 1.25-1.41) in the middle and high tertile groups. This association was no longer significant after controlling for obstetric interventions (pain relief or augmentation).


          The wide variation between referral rates may not be explained by medical factors or client characteristics alone. A high intrapartum referral rate in a midwifery practice is associated with an increased chance of an instrumental birth for nulliparous women, which is mediated by the increased use of obstetric interventions. Midwives should critically evaluate their referral behaviour. A high referral rate may indicate that more interventions are applied than necessary. This may lead to a lower chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth and a higher risk on a PPH. However, a low referral rate should not be achieved at the cost of perinatal safety.

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          Severe maternal morbidity during pregnancy, delivery and puerperium in the Netherlands: a nationwide population-based study of 371,000 pregnancies.

          To assess incidence, case fatality rate, risk factors and substandard care in severe maternal morbidity in the Netherlands. Prospective population-based cohort study. All 98 maternity units in the Netherlands. All pregnant women in the Netherlands. Cases of severe maternal morbidity were collected during a 2-year period. All pregnant women in the Netherlands in the same period acted as reference cohort (n = 371,021). As immigrant women are disproportionately represented in Dutch maternal mortality statistics, special attention was paid to the ethnic background. In a subset of 2.5% of women, substandard care was assessed through clinical audit. Incidence, case fatality rates, possible risk factors and substandard care. Severe maternal morbidity was reported in 2552 women, giving an overall incidence of 7.1 per 1000 deliveries. Intensive care unit admission was reported in 847 women (incidence 2.4 per 1000), uterine rupture in 218 women (incidence 6.1/10,000), eclampsia in 222 women (incidence 6.2/10,000) and major obstetric haemorrhage in 1606 women (incidence 4.5 per 1000). Non-Western immigrant women had a 1.3-fold increased risk of severe maternal morbidity (95% CI 1.2-1.5) when compared with Western women. Overall case fatality rate was 1 in 53. Substandard care was found in 39 of a subset of 63 women (62%) through clinical audit. Severe maternal morbidity complicates at least 0.71% of all pregnancies in the Netherlands, immigrant women experiencing an increased risk. Since substandard care was found in the majority of assessed cases, reduction of severe maternal morbidity seems a mandatory challenge.
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            Small area variations in health care delivery.

            Health information about total populations is a prerequisite for sound decision-making and planning in the health care field. Experience with a population-based health data system in Vermont reveals that there are wide variations in resource input, utilization of services, and expenditures among neighboring communities. Results show prima facie inequalities in the input of resources that are associated with income transfer from areas of lower expenditure to areas of higher expenditure. Variations in utilization indicate that there is considerable uncertainty about the effectiveness of different levels of aggregate, as well as specific kinds of, health services. Informed choices in the public regulation of the health care sector require knowledge of the relation between medical care systems and the population groups being served, and they should take into account the effect of regulation on equality and effectiveness. When population-based data on small areas are available, decisions to expand hospitals, currently based on institutional pressures, can take into account a community's regional ranking in regard to bed input and utilization rates. Proposals by hospitals for unit price increases and the regulation of the actuarial rate of insurance programs can be evaluated in terms of per capita expenditures and income transfer between geographically defined populations. The PSRO's can evaluate the wide variations in level of services among residents of different communities. Coordinated exercise of the authority vested in these regulatory programs may lead to explicit strategies to deal directly with inequality and uncertainty concerning the effectiveness of health care delivery. Population-based health information systems, because they can provide information on the performance of health care systems and regulatory agencies, are an important step in the development of rational public policy for health.
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              Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician.

              Studies of planned home births attended by registered midwives have been limited by incomplete data, nonrepresentative sampling, inadequate statistical power and the inability to exclude unplanned home births. We compared the outcomes of planned home births attended by midwives with those of planned hospital births attended by midwives or physicians. We included all planned home births attended by registered midwives from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2004, in British Columbia, Canada (n = 2889), and all planned hospital births meeting the eligibility requirements for home birth that were attended by the same cohort of midwives (n = 4752). We also included a matched sample of physician-attended planned hospital births (n = 5331). The primary outcome measure was perinatal mortality; secondary outcomes were obstetric interventions and adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. The rate of perinatal death per 1000 births was 0.35 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.00-1.03) in the group of planned home births; the rate in the group of planned hospital births was 0.57 (95% CI 0.00-1.43) among women attended by a midwife and 0.64 (95% CI 0.00-1.56) among those attended by a physician. Women in the planned home-birth group were significantly less likely than those who planned a midwife-attended hospital birth to have obstetric interventions (e.g., electronic fetal monitoring, relative risk [RR] 0.32, 95% CI 0.29-0.36; assisted vaginal delivery, RR 0.41, 95% 0.33-0.52) or adverse maternal outcomes (e.g., third- or fourth-degree perineal tear, RR 0.41, 95% CI 0.28-0.59; postpartum hemorrhage, RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.49-0.77). The findings were similar in the comparison with physician-assisted hospital births. Newborns in the home-birth group were less likely than those in the midwife-attended hospital-birth group to require resuscitation at birth (RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.14-0.37) or oxygen therapy beyond 24 hours (RR 0.37, 95% CI 0.24-0.59). The findings were similar in the comparison with newborns in the physician-assisted hospital births; in addition, newborns in the home-birth group were less likely to have meconium aspiration (RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.21-0.93) and more likely to be admitted to hospital or readmitted if born in hospital (RR 1.39, 95% CI 1.09-1.85). Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.

                Author and article information

                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
                BioMed Central (London )
                21 February 2015
                21 February 2015
                : 15
                [ ]KNOV (Royal Dutch Organisation for Midwives), P.O. Box 2001, 3500GA Utrecht, the Netherlands
                [ ]Department of Midwifery Science, AVAG and the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007MB Amsterdam, the Netherlands
                [ ]PRN (the Netherlands Perinatal Registry), P.O. Box 8588, 3503RN Utrecht, the Netherlands
                [ ]Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Center, P.O. Box 7057, 1007MB Amsterdam, the Netherlands
                [ ]Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Internal postal code 118, P.O. Box 9101, 6500HB Nijmegen, the Netherlands
                © Offerhaus et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Research Article
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                © The Author(s) 2015

                Obstetrics & Gynecology

                midwifery, referral, instrumental birth


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