Midwife-led care and obstetrician-led care for low-risk pregnancies: A cost comparison

Laura B. Attanasio, Fernando Alarid-Escudero, Katy B. Kozhimannil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: Low-risk pregnant women cared for by midwives have similar birth outcomes to women cared for by physicians, although experiencing fewer medical procedures. However, limited research has assessed cost implications in the United States. Using national data, we assessed costs and resource use of midwife-led care vs obstetrician-led care for low-risk pregnancies using a decision-analytic approach. Methods: We developed a decision-analytic model of costs (health plan payments to clinicians) and use of medical procedures during childbirth (epidural analgesia, labor induction, cesarean birth, episiotomy) and outcomes of care (birth at preterm gestation) that may differ with midwife-led vs obstetrician-led care. Model parameters for obstetric procedures were generated using Listening to Mothers III data, a national survey of women who gave birth in US hospitals in 2011-2012 and other published estimates. Cost estimates came from published or publicly available information on health insurance claims payments. Results: The costs of childbirth for low-risk women with midwife-led care were, on average, $2262 less than births to low-risk women cared for by obstetricians. These cost differences derive from lower rates of preterm birth and episiotomy among women with midwife-led care, compared with obstetrician-led care. Across the population of US women with low-risk births each year (approximately 2.6 million), the model predicted substantially fewer preterm births (167 259 vs 219 427 for midwife-led vs obstetrician-led care) and fewer episiotomies (170 504 vs 415 686, for midwife-led vs obstetrician-led care). Conclusions: A shift from obstetrician-led care to midwife-led care for low-risk pregnancies could be cost saving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-66
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • cost of care
  • decision analysis
  • maternity care
  • midwifery


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