To study the effect of travel time, at the start or during labour, from home to hospital on mortality and adverse outcomes in pregnant women at term in primary and secondary care.

Design:  Population-based cohort study from 2000 up to and including 2006.
Setting: The Netherlands Perinatal Registry.
Population”A total of 751.926 singleton term hospital births.

We assessed the impact of travel time by car, calculated from the postal code of the woman’s residence to the 99 maternity units, on neonatal outcome. Logistic regression modelling with adjustments for gestational age, maternal age, parity, ethnicity, socio-economic status, urbanisation, tertiary care centres and volume of the hospital was used.

Main outcome measures: Mortality (intrapartum, and early and late neonatal mortality) and adverse neonatal outcomes (mortality, Apgar <4 and/or admission to a neonatal intensive care unit).

The mortality was 1.5 per 1000 births, and adverse outcomes occurred in 6.0 per 1000 births. There was a positive relationship between longer travel time (‡20 minutes) and total mortality (OR 1.17, 95% CI 1.002-1.36), neonatal mortality within 24 hours (OR 1.51, 95% CI 1.13-2.02) and with adverse outcomes (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.17-1.38). In addition to travel time, both delivery at 37 weeks of gestation (OR 2.23, 95% CI 1.81-2.73) or 41 weeks of gestation (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.29-1.80) increased the risk of mortality.

A travel time from home to hospital of 20 minutes or more by car is associated with an increased risk of mortality and adverse outcomes in women at term in the Netherlands. These findings should be considered in plans for the centralisation
of obstetric care.