Midwifery gaining in popularity in southern Alberta
The number of midwives in Medicine Hat has increased, while hospital privileges to give birth with a midwife now extend to Brooks, it has been announced.
Carissa Murray has just joined the team at Medicine Hat Midwives, and Brooks is the third hospital on stream with midwifery hospital privileges in southern Alberta following Medicine Hat and Cardston.
Brooks will be a sister clinic to Medicine Hat, called Prairie Rose Midwifery, said midwife Cherry Maclagan. All three midwives, including Terrie Shaw who has many years experience, will cover the whole area. Midwifery services have been fully covered by Alberta Health Services since 2009. Previously, clients paid about $4,000 for midwifery services, said Shaw.
AHS funding covers about 40 deliveries a year, per midwife, but that does not meet the demand, said Shaw.
With Murray recently joining Medicine Hat Midwives, there is additional funding now and so there is capacity to take on more clients, said Shaw.
There was a time when midwifery was not regulated in the province but Mount Royal University offers a four-year degree in midwifery, said Shaw.
Sometimes there is still some confusion about the difference between the services of a midwife and that of a doula.
A doula does not need to have specific clinical/medical training, and primarily plays a supporting role in helping a mother through the physical discomfort of giving birth, said Shaw.
Midwives are required to have specific recognized training and are primary health-care providers throughout the pregnancy, labour and birth, including consulting with obstetricians when needed. Midwives can order lab work and tests such as ultrasounds.
They admit their patients to hospital and discharge them. They have limited prescribing authority and they care for the mother and baby up to six weeks after the birth.
Shaw calls it “a full course of care,” providing continuity of care in a relationship of trust and confidence.
Choosing the services of a midwife no longer means automatically having a home birth, there is a choice because midwives have had hospital privileges since January 2017. However, if you want a home birth you will need a midwife, as doctors do not offer this.
Midwives provide information and recommendations so women can make an informed choice, said Shaw.
“Women are the primary decision makers, and midwives support them in their choices,” she explained.
For some women, choosing a midwife is about the extra time they receive, building a relationship throughout the pregnancy, said Maclagan.
Although midwifery services are only for “low-risk pregnancies,” sometimes they are able to provide care in conjunction with an obstetrician and a hospital birth, said Shaw.
When clients choose a home birth, midwives are equipped with items such as an IV, suction and medication that is taken to the home. If during the delivery the midwife considers it prudent to transfer the patient to the hospital, this is easily done, she explained.
Shaw says about half the clients choose a home birth, and half prefer a hospital birth.
On a personal level, Shaw says home births are her favourite.
“I love the atmosphere — a spiritual experience.” The feedback from clients of Medicine Hat Midwives has been positive. There is a binder full of appreciation expressed in writing.
“My home birth was my dream birth and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I am forever grateful to the Midwives of Medicine Hat for coming here and setting up practice. I can’t say enough good things about them,” says one.
Midwives of Medicine Hat is an independent practice registered though the College of Midwives of Alberta, under the Health Disciplines Act.
Looking at a wall of photos and thank-you notes to the Midwives of Medicine Hat are, from left, midwives Carissa Murray (who has hospital privileges in Cardston), Terrie Shaw and Cherry Maclagan.