Funding to explore premature births prevention

A caseload midwife and patient
6 August 2020 | Pregnancy
A research project at the Royal Women’s Hospital has received $1.6 million to explore a new approach to preventing babies being born prematurely.

The funding from the Medical Research Future Fund will explore whether caseload midwifery – continuity of care from a ‘known’ midwife – for socially disadvantaged and vulnerable women can help reduce their substantially higher risk of preterm births.

Leading the research in partnership with the Women’s is Professor Helen McLachlan from the Judith Lumley Centre at La Trobe University.

“Preterm birth is the most common cause of death in Australian infants. It also impacts on the short and long-term health of over 27,000 babies nationally each year, with much poorer health outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged mothers,” Professor McLachlan said.

She said caseload midwifery is associated with improved clinical and psychosocial outcomes for women but until now has mostly been tested in very low-risk populations.

Professor Della Forster, project co-lead and Director of the Midwifery and Maternity Service Research Unit at the Women’s, said the hospital cares for women from all walks of life and she hoped this research will further the hospital’s ability to provide care for women who may benefit from additional support.

“Caseload midwifery is a great option for women and one that improves outcomes for women and babies - lots of women choose this model of care when they come to the Women’s,” Professor Forster said.

“With this trial we’ll be able to offer it to women who may have been excluded, or unable to access the model before, and who may benefit even more than those who currently have access to it. Building the evidence base on how to optimise healthcare for vulnerable women is an important and great thing to be a part of.”

The randomised trial will involve over 1800 women and 10 midwives from three Victorian hospitals – the Women’s, Northern Health and Bendigo Health.