Women giving birth while being helped by midwives instead of consultants are more likely to have a natural delivery.
Researchers at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital in Scotland, which opened a midwives unit in 1990, have discovered that women giving birth at the unit suffered fewer epidurals and episiotomies, and at no greater risk to the baby.
Midwife care could even be a safer and better option for women at low risk, a research team led by Ms V A Hundley has concluded.
The unit has a "homely" and relaxed environment, and the midwives take total responsibility for the delivery, while using only traditional devices such as a stethoscope for checking the baby's heart rate.
However, of the 2,844 low risk women originally selected for the study, about half were at some stage in labour transferred to a ward and consultant care (BMJ, 26 November 1994).
Only midwives experienced in episiotomies should be allowed to perform the operation, said a Danish study in a rather obvious conclusion. Researchers at Aarhus University Hospital were worried by the relatively high incidence of tearing suffered by about 6 per cent of women given an episiotomy by one of 30 midwives monitored for the study.
!ABMJ, 12 November 1994.