Birthing in regional Australia: Women's decision making surrounding birthplace.
Australian Health Review, 45 (5), 570-577.
Although there is some research on women’s choice of birthplace, most of this research has been conducted overseas. This study explored factors influencing the decision to use public or private maternity services within regional Australia.
This cross-sectional study consisted of a community-based, anonymous, online questionnaire focused on factors influencing a woman’s choice of birth location and included adult females who had given birth in the past 2 years within two regional areas. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse demographic characteristics and factors influencing decisions regarding birthplace. Pearson’s Chi-squared test was used to compare public and private births for multiple variables. Binary logistic regression was used to determine the odds ratio for each potential factor based on whether participants with private health insurance (PHI) elected to birth in the public or private regional hospitals. Open coding was used to group responses to open ended questions into themes.
Data from 510 questionnaires were analysed. The three most frequently reported factors influencing a woman’s decision about birthplace were financial reasons, the ability to choose their doctor and not having PHI. Women with PHI who opted for birth in the public system were almost four-fold more likely to select access to intensive care services and 2.6-fold more likely to select a preference for a low-intervention birth as one of their top five most influential factors. The results highlight that women want access to midwifery continuity of care.
This study provides insights into the factors influencing a woman’s complex decision about where and with whom to birth and how health insurance affects that decision, an area where there is a paucity of peer-reviewed literature. This research highlights the importance of being able to choose one’s doctor and the desire for access to midwife-led models of care, and provides evidence to advocate for improved access to additional models of care in the private sector.
What is already known?
The viability of regional private maternity hospitals is in question because, once the birth rate goes below a certain threshold, providing private obstetric service becomes unviable. Closure of regional private hospitals means less choice in regional areas. Minimal information is available about the factors influencing a woman with PHI to give birth in the public system, and much of the evidence is anecdotal.
What does this paper add?
This study provides insight into how PHI status and other factors influence a woman’s decision to birth in the public versus private sector, an area where there is a paucity of peer-reviewed literature. It also highlights a desire from women for access to midwifery continuity of care in the private system.
What are the implications for practitioners?
This research provides evidence to advocate for improved access to additional models of care, especially for midwifery-led care in the private sector.
Birthplace, Continuity of care, Maternity choices, Model of care, Private health insurance.