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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1/2017

Variation in clinical decision-making for induction of labour: a qualitative study

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth > Ausgabe 1/2017
Tanya A. Nippita, Maree Porter, Sean K. Seeho, Jonathan M. Morris, Christine L. Roberts



Unexplained variation in induction of labour (IOL) rates exist between hospitals, even after accounting for casemix and hospital differences. We aimed to explore factors that influence clinical decision-making for IOL that may be contributing to the variation in IOL rates between hospitals.


We undertook a qualitative study involving semi-structured, audio-recorded interviews with obstetricians and midwives. Using purposive sampling, participants known to have diverse opinions on IOL were selected from ten Australian maternity hospitals (based on differences in hospital IOL rate, size, location and case-mix complexities). Transcripts were indexed, coded, and analysed using the Framework Approach to identify main themes and subthemes.


Forty-five participants were interviewed (21 midwives, 24 obstetric medical staff). Variations in decision-making for IOL were based on the obstetrician’s perception of medical risk in the pregnancy (influenced by the obstetrician’s personality and knowledge), their care relationship with the woman, how they involved the woman in decision-making, and resource availability. The role of a ‘gatekeeper’ in the procedural aspects of arranging an IOL also influenced decision-making. There was wide variation in the clinical decision-making practices of obstetricians and less accountability for decision-making in hospitals with a high IOL rate, with the converse occurring in hospitals with low IOL rates.


Improved communication, standardised risk assessment and accountability for IOL offer potential for reducing variation in hospital IOL rates.
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