Socioeconomic differences in access to care in Australia for women fearful of birth

Jocelyn Toohill, Emily Callander, Haylee Fox, Daniel Lindsay, Jenny Gamble, Debra Creedy, Jennifer Fenwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Fear of childbirth is known to increase a woman's likelihood of having a Caesarean section. Continuity of midwifery care is known to reduce this risk, but less than 8% of women have access to this relationship-based, primary care model. The aims of this study were to determine whether healthcare use and access to continuity models are equal across different indicators of socioeconomic status for women who are fearful of birth. Methods: A secondary analysis was conducted of data obtained during a randomised controlled trial of a psychoeducation intervention by trained midwives to minimise childbirth fear (the Birth Emotions and Looking to Improve Expectant Fear (BELIEF) study). In all, 1410 women were screened, with 339 women reporting high levels of fear (Wijma-Delivery Expectancy/Experience Questionnaire ≥66). Demographic, obstetric information, birth preference and psychosocial measures were collected at recruitment and at 36 weeks gestation for the 339 fearful women, with the birth method and health service use returned by 183 women at 6 weeks after the birth. Results: Univariate analysis revealed no significant difference in the number of general practitioner and midwife visits between women of high and low income and high and low education. However, women with higher levels of education had 2.51-fold greater odds of seeing the same midwife throughout their pregnancy than women with lower education (95% confidence interval 1.25-5.04), after adjusting for age, parity and hospital site. Conclusions: Given the known positive outcomes of continuity of midwifery care for women fearful of birth, health policy makers need to provide equity in access to evidence-based models of midwifery care. What is known about this topic?: Caseload midwifery care is considered the gold standard care due to the known positive outcomes it has for the mother and baby during the perinatal period. Pregnant women who receive caseload midwifery care are more likely to experience a normal vaginal birth. What does this paper add?: There is unequal access to midwifery caseload care for women fearful of birth across socioeconomic boundaries. Midwifery caseload care is not used for all fearful mothers during the perinatal period. What are the implications for practitioners?: Health policy makers seeking to provide equity in access to maternity care should be aware of these inequalities in use to target delivery of care at this specific cohort of mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-643
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The BELIEF study was funded by National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (Grant ID APP1025099). Jocelyn Toohill is the only team member paid through grant funds.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 AHHA.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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