Publicly funded midwifery services are now available to expectant families with low-risk pregnancies in HRM. As one of the three midwifery model sites across the province, the IWK has hired two full-time and two part-time midwives to work as primary maternity care providers. Erin Hemmens from The Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia joins us to give us the rundown on the current situation.
HRM Parent: Erin, to start, can you tell us a bit about midwives and what they do?
Erin: Midwives are autonomous, licensed health care professionals in Nova Scotia. In accordance with the World Health Organization’s definition of a midwife, the midwives serving HRM have completed a prescribed course of study and have qualified for professional registration. Their scope of practice includes the supervision, care and guidance of women during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period. They conduct deliveries and are the primary caregiver for both the mother and the newborn infant. This care includes preventive measures, the detection of abnormal conditions in mother and child, the procurement of medical and non-medical assistance and the execution of emergency measures in the absence of medical help. Midwives further specialize in counseling, breastfeeding support and family planning.
HRMP: What are the advantages to choosing midwifery care over a GP or an OB?
E: Midwives are highly trained specialists in the care of normal pregnancy and birth. They work in partnership with mothers and families to offer comprehensive care based on respect for pregnancy as a state of health and childbirth as a normal healthy process. A midwife provides continuity of care, a concept that is often lost when working with a GP or OB. In the midwifery model, this is facilitated by lengthy prenatal appointments, usually 45 minutes to an hour long. It also means that you have an established relationship with your midwife when you are in labour and are more likely to feel comfortable and safe. Midwifery care has been proven to have better outcomes (fewer interventions). I personally believe that a major reason for this is that a woman is much more relaxed and able to surrender to the process of birth when she knows the people who are supporting her and providing her with clinical care. Essentially, continuity of care means that you know your provider; you trust her and you have worked with her in a collaborative manner to develop a plan for your pregnancy, birth and postpartum that is right for you.
Further advantages to midwifery care are expert breastfeeding support, a shared philosophy of seeing birth as a transformative experience for the whole family and a provider that views pregnancy and birth as normal parts of a woman’s life, rather than the medical event it is often treated as.
HRMP: Will women need to go to the IWK for appointments?
E: No. The midwives serving HRM will be located in offices (currently under renovations) on Wyse Road in Dartmouth. Women will attend all prenatal appointments, and the majority of postnatal appointments, in Dartmouth, with the exception of one home visit within a week of the mother giving birth. For the time being, all births will take place at the IWK until safety measures and guidelines are in place for homebirths. The IWK has assured us that they are working on this and that women can expect to have homebirth services offered to them shortly.
HRMP: If a woman is interested in using a midwife, what should they do?
E: The IWK is encouraging women to email the Midwifery Administrative Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as they find out they are pregnant, as they are anticipating waiting lists. You will not be automatically referred to a midwife by your GP. Further information can be found on the IWK website here.
HRMP: Can women still access midwifery services privately?
E: There are no privately practicing midwives in HRM.
HRMP: Thanks Erin for keeping us up-to-date on all the new developments!
About The Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia
The Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia is a consumer based lobby group that has worked for over 25 years to have midwifery recognized as a health profession in Nova Scotia. We believe that midwifery provides the highest standard of care for mothers, babies and families, and that it should be available to all families in Nova Scotia. We are pleased with the development of midwifery in the three model sites, but we continue to fight for the majority of women in Nova Scotia for whom midwifery is not an option. If you would like to help us hold the government accountable to their promises, and see the expansion of midwifery services into the rest of the province, please visit out website here.
We welcome anyone with an interest to contact us or to attend one of our monthly board meetings (the time and dates are listed on the website). Children are always welcome.