Article Text

Evaluating Midwifery Units (EMU): a prospective cohort study of freestanding midwifery units in New South Wales, Australia
  1. Amy Monk1,
  2. Mark Tracy2,
  3. Maralyn Foureur3,
  4. Celia Grigg1,
  5. Sally Tracy4
  1. 1Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Centre for Newborn Care, Westmead Hospital and The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health, Faculty of Health, The University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Centre for Midwifery & Women's Health Nursing Research Unit, The Royal Hospital for Women and the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Amy Monk; amy.monk{at}


Objective To compare maternal and neonatal birth outcomes and morbidities associated with the intention to give birth in two freestanding midwifery units and two tertiary-level maternity units in New South Wales, Australia.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Participants 494 women who intended to give birth at freestanding midwifery units and 3157 women who intended to give birth at tertiary-level maternity units. Participants had low risk, singleton pregnancies and were at less than 28+0 weeks gestation at the time of booking.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Primary outcomes were mode of birth, Apgar score of less than 7 at 5 min and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit or special care nursery. Secondary outcomes were onset of labour, analgesia, blood loss, management of third stage of labour, perineal trauma, transfer, neonatal resuscitation, breastfeeding, gestational age at birth, birth weight, severe morbidity and mortality.

Results Women who planned to give birth at a freestanding midwifery unit were significantly more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth (AOR 1.57; 95% CI 1.20 to 2.06) and significantly less likely to have a caesarean section (AOR 0.65; 95% CI 0.48 to 0.88). There was no significant difference in the AOR of 5 min Apgar scores, however, babies from the freestanding midwifery unit group were significantly less likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care or special care nursery (AOR 0.60; 95% CI 0.39 to 0.91). Analysis of secondary outcomes indicated that planning to give birth in a freestanding midwifery unit was associated with similar or reduced odds of intrapartum interventions and similar or improved odds of indicators of neonatal well-being.

Conclusions The results of this study support the provision of care in freestanding midwifery units as an alternative to tertiary-level maternity units for women with low risk pregnancies at the time of booking.

  • Pregnancy
  • Cohort studies
  • Midwifery
  • Birthing centres, free-standing
  • Delivery room

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.