Writ­ing in sup­port of mid­wifery


Men­tion the word “mid­wife” to many peo­ple in North Amer­ica and you con­jure up im­ages of the past, of mid­wives trekking through deep snows to reach re­mote women, with few tools be­yond their ex­pe­ri­ence and com­mon sense.

For many, it’s a job that be­longs to the past. Not so in most of the prov­inces, how­ever.

Since 1994, mid­wifery has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a resur­gence in Canada, so much so that many women who re­quest mid­wifery ser­vices are placed on long wait­ing lists.

As a res­i­dent of On­tario, I was able to make the choice to have mid­wifery ser­vices for my preg­nan­cies. While I re­ceived all of the stan­dard pre­na­tal care, I also had ap­point­ments that lasted from 30-45 min­utes each and mid­wives that I could reach 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week with my ques­tions and con­cerns.

My mid­wives came to my house when I wasn’t sure if I was in labour and they came to my house sev­eral times dur­ing the first week to make sure my baby and I were healthy and happy and that breast­feed­ing was go­ing well.

They would have come to my house for the birth if I’d asked them to (pro­vid­ing my health was good and my preg­nancy was un­com­pli­cated). In­stead, they came with me to the hos­pi­tal where they have priv­i­leges. My mid­wives stayed with me the 20 hours it took for my first baby to ar­rive and the seven hours it took for the sec­ond.

When I en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties dur­ing the first birth, they worked with the ob­ste­tri­cian to over­come them. The mid­wives were able to start in­tra­venous lines, place stitches, draw blood sam­ples, write pre­scrip­tions and or­der tests. The time and care my mid­wives pro­vided to me was a tremen­dous com­fort, es­pe­cially for my first baby when I had so many ques­tions.

Had mid­wifery not been funded by On­tario’s health in­sur­ance, I wouldn’t have had the lux­ury of choice.

In March of next year, af­ter four years of train­ing, I will be a reg­is­tered mid­wife my­self. We talk a lot in our ed­u­ca­tion about the val­ues of mid­wifery, about the com­mit­ment to women and fam­i­lies and our con­nec­tion to the com­mu­nity. We also spend a con­sid­er­able amount of time learn­ing how to pro­vide care that is con­sis­tent with cur­rent med­i­cal stan­dards and ev­i­dence and we spend one full year work­ing in in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary en­vi­ron­ments.

Mid­wives reg­u­larly un­dergo in­struc­tion and test­ing to main­tain emer­gency skills and in many prov­inces, are be­ing given more and more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. While Canada does not en­joy the same level of mid­wifery ser­vices as other coun­tries, the fact re­mains that it is a grow­ing and vi­brant pro­fes­sion in this coun­try. It is well-re­ceived and loved by women and their fam­i­lies.

Mid­wives in On­tario are ded­i­cated to help­ing women make de­ci­sions for their care, to of­fer­ing a choice of birth­place and en­sur­ing that the mid­wife at­tend­ing the birth is some­one fa­mil­iar to the mother. These tenets are the ba­sis of mid­wifery care.

In New­found­land, where there has been a long his­tory of mid­wifery care, there are cur­rently al­most no mid­wives. Leg­is­la­tion was passed in 2010 that al­lows the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­fes­sion, but with­out fi­nan­cial sup­port from the govern­ment, with mid­wives em­ployed as part of the pri­mary health care team, it will never go fur­ther than that.

With roots in the prov­ince and an abid­ing love for the land and her peo­ple, I have watched, with sad­ness, the hos­pi­tal in Car­bon­ear lose both of its ob­ste­tri­cians this year. More and more hos­pi­tals and their com­mu­ni­ties are los­ing ma­ter­nity care and women are forced to leave their fam­i­lies and sup­port sys­tems to go to un­fa­mil­iar places to have their ba­bies.

I be­lieve mid­wives could lighten the heavy work­load of ob­ste­tri­cians and other care providers, per­haps pre­vent­ing losses such as Car­bon­ear and other ar­eas have ex­pe­ri­enced. Women in New­found­land de­serve the op­por­tu­nity to choose their care and to choose where they will have their chil­dren. I hope that some time in the near fu­ture, they will have that op­por­tu­nity.

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