More women are seeking more choices for childbirth and many are finding what they want and need with mid-wife attended births.
Licensed midwives have been funded under the provincial health care system since the the late 1990s and the number of midwives is growing. Midwives are nurses with additional specialized training and can provide all services for prenatal, birth, and postnatal care, including routine and other testing and referrals to specialists and admission to hospitals.
Sylvia Nicholson has been a nurse since 1974 and soon became interested in midwifery.
“I observed that this choice was not being offered to women anywhere in Canada. I had to go to Wales to train,” she said.
She came back to Canada and took her first posting as a nurse-practitioner/midwife to North Baffin Island where there was no recognition of the tradition of women helping women during pregnancy and childbirth the same as she had seen elsewhere in Canada at the time.
Carrie Sizer grew up in, and took her nursing training in England where she did student placements with midwives and later decided to take specialized training.
“I liked the idea of working with women and families and being able to make a difference to the experience of childbirth for the whole family,” she said.
Sizer came to Vernon in 2014 in answer to Nicholson’s advertisement for a partner in her business. They work together in Vernon Midwifery Clinic, the first free-standing midwifery clinic in the North Okanagan due to open officially the first week in February. There are now six midwives working in the area.
“We think that many women may not realize that all costs of midwife-assisted birth are covered by their medical insurance. We are always open to provide more information to help families make their choices,” said Sizer.
Nicholson added that midwives always leave the choices to women and families once they have the information they need.
“Women can give birth at home or in the hospital where they are still attended by their midwife with other specialists as needed. Midwives see women for prenatal visits the same number of times as physicians do, with appointments lasting up to 45 minutes or an hour, and they make postpartum home visits for up to eight weeks,” she said. “One of the midwives is available 24/7 to answer questions or attend births. We are there all the time for them.”
Sizer said she likes being able to get to know women and their families and to help fathers prepare to take whatever role they want to in the birth process.
“We have seen women blossom into empowered women as they grow in confidence and make informed choices about what is best for themselves and their families. And we now have returning clients.”
No pregnancy is the same and because the midwives know the mothers well, they can help to make adaptations to plans as necessary. For example, an unexpected premature birth may change plans for a home birth to one that involves admission to hospital.
“The Vernon hospital has an amazing maternity floor and it is a very nice environment and a great team. It’s very rewarding, wherever the birth takes place, to know that you have been part of helping a family achieve its goals,” said Sizer.
Most home births go as planned, if not always at the expected time, but the midwives are always there.
Some women choose to have a birth doula, who helps take care of the physical and emotional support of the mother but does not do any medical procedures. Doula service is not covered by medical insurance. The midwives are licensed by the province. Those who had their training elsewhere must take additional training to be licensed in Canada. The University of British Columbia has a Bachelor of Midwifery program.
“Midwifery is getting more known and it is a privilege and an honour for us to be part of that time for families,” said Nicholson, who, like Sizer, considers being a midwife a calling as well as a profession. Both women are mothers.
Nicholson has one child, without a midwife, and Sizer has two, both with a midwife.
“We want women to know that midwifery is a choice that is available for them. We don’t like to hear women say after they have had a baby, ‘I wish I had known,’” said Nicholson.
For more information, see www.vernonmidwifery.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.