Certified nurse midwives effects on catecholamine levels and maternal anxiety during labor

Susan Magee Wente, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Studies of nurse midwifery care in the last twenty one years have reported excellent birth outcomes (Levy, Wilkenson and Marine, 1971; Platt et al. 1985; Stone et al. 1976). These outcomes are frequently attributed to the special support offered during labor and delivery by nurse midwives. This supportive style is thought to decrease catecholamine levels by reducing maternal anxiety. This prospective observational study evaluated catecholamine levels, anxiety levels, in-hospital costs, obstetrical practices and outcomes between low risk, term, labor and delivery primigravida patients managed by obstetrical residents (n = 55) or by certified nurse-midwives CNM (n = 59). The two groups were similar with regard to obstetrical risk factors present at admission. Each group was selected over the same period of time between March 23, 1994 and November 2, 1994. Specific catecholamines evaluated were epinephrine and norepinephrine. Obstetrical and newborn characteristics were also compared. This study did not prove that there is a decreased level in stress as indicated by lower levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine in nurse-midwife patients compared to obstetrical resident patients after adjusting for the use of epidural anesthesia. There was also no difference found in the perceived anxiety levels between the two groups. This study did confirm that nurse-midwives and obstetrical residents have different practice styles. Nurse-midwife patients had fewer augmented deliveries, fewer operative deliveries, less blood loss, fewer episiotomies and fewer third and fourth degree lacerations. The physician's choice to utilize more interventions such as continuous fetal monitoring and epidural anesthesia did not improve outcomes. The hospital cost of the nurse-midwife patients in this study was 35 percent lower than the physician patients.

Subject Area

Obstetrics|Gynecology|Nursing|Physiological psychology

Recommended Citation

Wente, Susan Magee, "Certified nurse midwives effects on catecholamine levels and maternal anxiety during labor" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9700058.