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Outcomes of deliveries by family physicians or obstetricians: a population-based cohort study using an instrumental variable [Research]

Background:

Previous research has suggested that obstetric outcomes are similar for deliveries by family physicians and obstetricians, but many of these studies were small, and none of them adjusted for unmeasured selection bias. We compared obstetric outcomes between these provider types using an econometric method designed to adjust for unobserved confounding.

Methods:

We performed a retrospective population-based cohort study of all Canadian (except Quebec) hospital births with delivery by family physicians and obstetricians at more than 20 weeks gestational age, with birth weight greater than 500 g, between Apr. 1, 2006, and Mar. 31, 2009. The primary outcomes were the relative risks of in-hospital perinatal death and a composite of maternal mortality and major morbidity assessed with multivariable logistic regression and instrumental variable–adjusted multivariable regression.

Results:

After exclusions, there were 3600 perinatal deaths and 14 394 cases of maternal morbidity among 799 823 infants and 793 053 mothers at 390 hospitals. For deliveries by family physicians v. obstetricians, the relative risk of perinatal mortality was 0.98 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.85–1.14) and of maternal morbidity was 0.81 (95% CI 0.70–0.94) according to logistic regression. The respective relative risks were 0.97 (95% CI 0.58–1.64) and 1.13 (95% CI 0.65–1.95) according to instrumental variable methods.

Interpretation:

After adjusting for both observed and unobserved confounders, we found a similar risk of perinatal mortality and adverse maternal outcome for obstetric deliveries by family physicians and obstetricians. Whether there are differences between these groups for other outcomes remains to be seen.

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