Objectives. To describe the extent to which local guidelines for admission to UK midwifery units align with national guidance; to describe variation in individual admission criteria; and to describe the extent to which alongside midwifery units (AMUs) are the default option for eligible women.
Design. National cross-sectional survey.
Setting. All 122 UK maternity services with midwifery units, between October 2018 and February 2019.
Outcome measures. Alignment of local admission guidelines with national guidance (NICE CG190); frequency and nature of variation in individual admission criteria; percentage of services with AMU as default birth setting for eligible women.
Results. Admission guidelines were received from 87 maternity services (71%), representing 153 units, and we analysed 85 individual guideline documents. Overall, 92% of local admission guidelines varied from national guidance; 76% contained both some admission criteria that were ‘more inclusive’ and some that were ‘more restrictive’ than national guidance. The most common ‘more inclusive’ admission criteria, occurring in 40–80% of guidelines, were: explicit admission of women with parity ≥4; aged 35-40yrs; with a BMI 30-35kg/m2; selective admission of women with a BMI 35-40kg/m2; Group B Streptococcus carriers; and those undergoing induction of labour. The most common ‘more restrictive’ admission criteria, occurring in around 30% of guidelines, excluded women who: declined blood products; had experienced female genital cutting; were aged <16yrs; or had not attended for regular antenatal care. Over half of services (59%) reported the AMU as the default option for healthy women with straightforward pregnancies.
Conclusions. The variation in local midwifery unit admission criteria found in this study represents a potentially confusing and inequitable basis for women making choices about planned place of birth. A review of national guidance may be indicated and where a lack of relevant evidence underlies variation in admission criteria, further research by planned place of birth is required.
Glenister, CeriBurns, Ethel
Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery
Year of publication: 2020Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-10-28