Background: Birth centres are regarded as settings where women with uncomplicated pregnancies can give birth, assisted by a midwife and a maternity care assistant. In case of (threatening) complications referral to a maternity unit of a hospital is necessary. In the last decade up to 20 different birth centres have been instituted in the Netherlands. This increase in birth centres is attributed to various reasons such as a safe and easy accessible place of birth, organizational efficiency in integration of care and direct access to obstetric hospital care if needed, and better use of maternity care assistance. Birth centres are assumed to offer increased integration and quality of care and thus to contribute to better perinatal and maternal outcomes. So far there is no evidence for this assumption as no previous studies of birth centres have been carried out in the Netherlands.
Design: The aims are:

1) Identification of birth centres and measuring integration of organization and care
2) Measuring the quality of birth centre care
3) Effects of introducing a birth centre on regional quality and provision of care
4) Cost-effectiveness analysis
5) In depth longitudinal analysis of the organization and processes in birth centres.
Different qualitative and quantitative methods will be used in the different sub studies. The design is a multi-centre, multi-method study, including surveys, interviews, observations, and analysis of registration data and documents.
Discussion: The results of this study will enable users of maternity care, professionals, policy makers and health care financers to make an informed choice about the kind of birth location that is appropriate for their needs and wishes.

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Department of Gynaecology & Obstetrics

Hermus, M. A. A., Wiegers, T. A., Hitzert, M., Boesveld, I. C., van den Akker-van Marle, E., Akkermans, H., … van der Pal-De Bruin, K. (2015). The Dutch Birth Centre Study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0585-1