The study of more than 16,000 women found that the best outcomes for low-risk pregnancies came from care provided in non-clinical settings, a team of midwives as the main care providers.
Data collected from a number of trials found that when midwives were the main providers of care throughout, women were less likely to give birth before 37 weeks or lose their babies before 24 weeks.
The review, which also involved King’s College London and the University of Warwick, found that the new mothers were happier with midwife-led care, had fewer epidurals, fewer assisted births, and fewer episiotomies - a procedure that involves making a surgical incision to reduce the risk of a tear.
While they were found to have no more likely to have a caesarean birth, they were in labour for about half an hour longer on average.
Research published today concludes that all women should be offered midwife-led continuity of care unless they have serious medical or obstetric complications.
Professor Hora Soltani, of Sheffield Hallam’s Centre for health and social care research, said: “It’s important to stress that this is not a comparison between a midwife and a doctor, it’s about trying to raise awareness that women can have confidence in their own abilities to have a normal birth with the help of midwives.
“The perception is that in order to get the highest quality of care, they must be cared for by a senior clinician and that is simply not the case. Midwives provide a sense of normality and by having a midwife they know during pregnancy it allows the mother to feel comfortable during labour, which is much better for the baby.
“Midwife-led care may also be more cost-effective and potentially releases the pressure on consultants who can concentrate on the mothers who require urgent and critical care but this requires further investigation.”