International Day of the Midwife

Posted on May 6, 2009 in Birthing, Maternity Care Options | 0 comments

May 5th was International Day of the Midwife. This special occasion is near and dear to my heart. Both of my children were born with the help of midwives and I have spent the last 3 years spreading the word about how wonderful they are.

I exhibited at the 2007 Canadian Association of Midwifery conference in Vancouver. The conference was held in Vancouver that year to also celebrate the 10th anniversary of the legalisation of midwifery in BC. At the conference, I bought a t-shirt that quickly became my favourite (coincidentally, I was even wearing it when I went into labour with my daughter last year) because of the colour, the fabric (organic cotton) and the message – 10 years of Registered Midwives. When I wear this t-shirt I often get asked if I am a midwife (sadly, the answer is no) and I always reply, “No. I just really like midwives!”

Most of my friends have also had the opportunity to experience midwifery care so I occasionally get the mistaken impression that it’s more widespread than it is. Ann Douglas recently shared some of the results of the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey and I was shocked to discover that only 6.1% of births are attended by midwives.

I was well aware that though Vancouver struggles with a shortage of midwives I was lucky to live there because other communities have no midwives at all. I fervently believe that we need more midwives. Even so, I didn’t realise the numbers were as low as they are.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Midwife is The World Needs Midwives Now More Than Ever and you can read some info about this from a global perspective at the International Confederation of Midwives website.

What does the picture look like in Canada?

Midwifery is legal and government funded in the Western provinces and Ontario and Quebec. However, the territories and Maritime provinces are still struggling to have midwifery recognized and paid for through the healthcare system.

Province
Regulated
Provincially funded
Practising midwives
Link
British Columbia
yes
yes
120
bcmidwives.com
Alberta
yes
in process*
30
albertamidwives.com
Saskatchewan
yes
yes
5
saskatchewanmidwives.com
Manitoba
yes
yes
40
midwives.mb.ca
Quebec
yes
yes
100
canadianmidwives.org
Ontario
yes
yes
450
aom.on.ca
New Brunswick
in process
no
1
canadianmidwives.org
Nova Scotia
in process*
no
7
canadianmidwives.org
PEI
no
no
1
canadianmidwives.org
Newfoundland and Labrador
no
no
n/a
canadianmidwives.org
Yukon
no
no
1
canadianmidwives.org
Northwest Territories
yes
yes
3
canadianmidwives.org
Nunavut
in process
partial funding
3
canadianmidwives.org

Source: Today’s Parent, March 2009

Some good news:
Despite government regulation since 1998, Alberta just agreed to publicly fund midwifery. The deal was finalized in early April of this year.

Nova Scotia has also proclaimed the Act Respecting Midwifery but have limited coverage to only a few districts within the province.

Some bad news:
The shortage of midwives is quite real and according to this recent Maclean’s article on the Midwife Crisis, it is just a part of a larger crisis within maternity care in Canada. The article’s byline goes so far as to say that “it’s a bad time to have a baby in Canada.”

And in Ottawa, despite the fact that Ontario is one of the provinces that recognizes and funds midwifery care, there’s been a major step backward – the Ottawa Hospital has closed its doors to midwives.

What Can You Do To Support Midwifery in Canada?

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