Early labour support at home: an RCT of nurse visits and telephone triage

Cesarean section rates have been considered too high in North America for a number of years, and the rate appears to be rising. My research will assess whether a different approach to early labour care lowers the rate and is cost-effective. Currently, women who phone British Columbia’s Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in labour, wondering whether they should come in to the hospital, receive telephone advice only. My research study will focus on women having their first baby who call the hospital for advice. Women who agree to participate in the study will be randomly assigned either the current method of telephone care or a visit from a delivery suite nurse, who will conduct an assessment in the woman’s home. This is the same assessment that takes place when women arrive at the hospital. The nurse will call the woman’s physician from her home, and the three of them will plan what to do next. In this study, I will compare the outcomes of home visits to telephone advice to determine whether the cesarean rate is lowered. We anticipate that early labour support and assessment at home will enable women to delay admission to hospital until labour is well established, reducing the use of cesarean sections and other interventions. We know from a small pilot project that babies seemed less likely to have problems at birth with this approach to maternity care. In addition, we will compare the cost of the two methods. We expect early labour support at home to reduce the costs associated with cesarean section and longer hospital stays.