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Transfer from midwifery unit to obstetric unit during labour: rates, process, outcomes and women's experience

Principal investigator
Rachel Rowe (NPEU)
Louise Locock (University of Oxford), Ray Fitzpatrick (University of Oxford), Jenny Kurinczuk (NPEU)
Labour and delivery, Women's experience of maternity care
Start year
End year
NPEU Contact
Rachel Rowe


The overarching aim of this study was to provide information to improve the care and experience of women planning to give birth in midwifery units (MUs), by exploring the factors associated with intrapartum transfer to obstetric units (OUs). The study formed the basis of Rachel Rowe's DPhil research and had three main elements: (i) Using data collected as part of the Birthplace in England Research Programme, the rate of transfer during labour from both Alongside and Freestanding Midwifery Units throughout England for women initially at low risk of complications was estimated. The process of transfer, including reasons for transfer, time taken and distance travelled, was also described and associations between socio-demographic and clinical factors and the process of transfer explored; (ii) Local guidelines and protocols for the transfer of women in labour were collected from all MUs in England, summarised and assessed against relevant national standards; (iii) The experiences, information and support needs of women transferred in labour were explored and described by means of qualitative interviews with women.


Journal Articles