Geographical, ethnic and socio-economic differences in utilization of obstetric care in the netherlands

Anke G. Posthumus, Gerard J. Borsboom, Jashvant Poeran, Eric A.P. Steegers, Gouke J. Bonsel

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10 Scopus citations


Background All women in the Netherlands should have equal access to obstetric care. However, utilization of care is shaped by demand and supply factors. Demand is increased in high risk groups (non-Western women, low socio-economic status (SES)), and supply is influenced by availability of hospital facilities (hospital density). To explore the dynamics of obstetric care utilization we investigated the joint association of hospital density and individual characteristics with prototype obstetric interventions. Methods A logistic multi-level model was fitted on retrospective data from the Netherlands Perinatal Registry (years 2000-2008, 1.532.441 singleton pregnancies). In this analysis, the first level comprised individual maternal characteristics, the second of neighbourhood SES and hospital density. The four outcome variables were: referral during pregnancy, elective caesarean section (term and post-term breech pregnancies), induction of labour (term and post-term pregnancies), and birth setting in assumed low-risk pregnancies. Results Higher hospital density is not associated with more obstetric interventions. Adjusted for maternal characteristics and hospital density, living in low SES neighbourhoods, and non- Western ethnicity were generally associated with a lower probability of interventions. For example, non-Western women had considerably lower odds for induction of labour in all geographical areas, with strongest effects in the more rural areas (non-Western women: OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.77-0.80, p<0.001). Conclusion Our results suggest inequalities in obstetric care utilization in the Netherlands, and more specifically a relative underservice to the deprived, independent of level of supply.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0156621
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


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