Author(s): Arabin B, Raum E, Mohnhaupt A, Schwartz FW
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Abstract OBJECTIVES: When perinatal medicine emerged as a new medical discipline in the 1960s, Berlin was as one of the world's leading centers. During that time, the city was separated into two parts, each fostering its own health care system. After the destruction of the Berlin Wall, it was possible to speak with the citizens of East Berlin and to access their database systems. This created the singular opportunity to objectively compare the development of perinatal care in both parts of Berlin. METHODS: Rates of maternal, perinatal, and infant mortality as well as the rate of preterm deliveries were evaluated over time and between East and West Berlin. The timing of introduction of 20 specific perinatal interventions was evaluated across 18 hospitals with more than 500 deliveries (11 in West Berlin and 7 in East Berlin). Interviews were conducted with 100 gynecologists, 100 midwives, and 100 women who had recently delivered their first child from each side of the city regarding their opinions of the importance of these interventions for the quality of perinatal medicine and how they would distribute a budget to improve maternity care. RESULTS: Maternal, perinatal, and infant mortality decreased in both parts of Berlin until 1990 (p < 0.0001), without significant differences between East and West Berlin, though the preterm delivery rate was slightly lower in East Berlin compared with West Berlin (p < 0.06). Some new clinical techniques and treatments--such as cardiotocography, ultrasound, tocolytic therapy, and peridural anesthesia--were introduced earlier in West Berlin. In contrast, certain public health measures--such as maternal transport, screening programs for diabetes, and support of breastfeeding--were introduced much earlier in East Berlin. There were significant differences between the beliefs of gynecologists, midwives, and mothers in East and West Berlin. In general, citizens of East Berlin were more enthusiastic about technological medical advances, whereas citizens of West Berlin were more supportive of public health and alternative methods. In addition, there were significant differences between female and male physicians in their beliefs about how to improve health care, regardless of whether they resided in East or West Berlin. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study may serve as a basis for reflection on how different social circumstances and health care policies can influence the improvement of maternal and child health care.
This article was published in Matern Child Health J
and referenced in Journal of Health & Medical Informatics