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.