Midwife British ColumbiaWho’s delivering your baby? Your family doctor, an ob/gyn? How about a midwife?  With a university degree, evidence based practices and woman-centered care, the modern midwife isn’t the mystic woman she used to be. Today she has the respect of doctors and nurses and is delivering babies in the same hospitals.  For many of us midwifery care raises three red flags. The first being: do I have to deliver at home?Although in the past midwifery seemed synonymous with home delivery, today 70% of B.C. women who choose to use a midwife actually deliver in hospital, especially since our hospitals recognized and accredited midwifery care in 1998.  Home delivery is an option, but the choice is up to you.

In British Columbia both midwives and doctors practice under the authority of our B.C. Medical Services Plan. As a BC Care Card holder you may choose to have either a doctor or a midwife deliver your baby. Both practice in our hospitals. Midwives are registered and regulated by the College of Midwives of British Columbia, the BC Health Professions Act, the Midwives Regulation and the CMBC Bylaws. In 1998 BC Midwives became legally recognized as autonomous health care practitioners.

What about pain relief, the coveted epidural? Yup, you still have the choice. The myth of midwives only assisting labour without pain relief is dispelled @ www.bcmidwives.com. “Midwives offer a range of natural and pharmaceutical pain relief options including access to epidurals.”

And finally, what about the risk of a c-section? In the case of an emergency c-section your care is transferred to the medical doctors on duty at the hospital. Or, in the case of a home birth, you’re transported to a nearby hospital. Both your doctor’s treatment and that of your midwife is covered by MSP.

There are certainly circumstances when midwives pass-on high risk pregnancies to physicians early in pregnancy or as complications progress, but did you know that if you are a low risk pregnancy having a midwife as your primary care provider in B.C. actually lowers your chance of having a c-section?

It’s time we become educated regarding our options. Midwives certainly are; educated that is. Midwives are not lay persons. Aspiring midwives can enroll in the full time four year Midwifery Education Program at UBC in an undergraduate program to receive a Bachelor of Midwifery degree from the CMBC (College of Midwives of BC). The BC Midwives’ website provides a number of other schools where midwives train all over the country..

We are, therefore, assured each midwife is educated and works together with medical doctors as needed (pre- and postpartum, as well as during delivery) to give you and your baby the best care possible. Plus, should you choose a midwife, she continues to care for you and your baby until about six weeks postpartum. Visits are in your home at your convenience. Assistance is provided with breast feeding and all the other adjustments pertaining to the arrival of a new baby.

One Victoria mom of two was delighted when her midwife found a herb in her garden to alleviate some breastfeeding problems. The greatful new mom didn’t even know her garden grew such herbs, but the midwife found her way around the garden with ease as she had cared for another woman in the same house years before.

In addition to regulations and extensive training, why does the health care system in BC support midwifery? It makes sense. Midwives are solely dedicated to a mother’s pregnancy, labour and her newborn baby.

How do we fathom what bodies go through while creating new life? Women give birth despite the awareness that the physical process is lengthy, painful and will significantly challenge their bodies (as well as their lives). Yet women choose to become pregnant, to give birth. In what other circumstance is pain received with such purpose?

Medical doctors are medically qualified to care for a woman during pregnancy and labour.  Our health care system ensures that any complications or concerns with pregnancy and labour will be met with ease by our skilled doctors – a very comforting fact for any expecting mother. Pregnancy and labour, however, are more than medical conditions.  Pregnancy and labour involve a transformation of the human body that deserves the dedicated care and attention that midwifery specialists provide.

The BC Midwives Association best describes the care provided by a midwife:

“Registered Midwives in BC offer primary maternity care to healthy pregnant women and their newborn babies from early pregnancy, through labour and birth, until about six weeks postpartum. What does this really mean? Midwives listen, observe, educate, guide and care. They order and interpret tests and discuss results. They screen for physical, psychological, emotional and social health. They are with women during pregnancy, labour and birth, normal and complicated. They catch babies. They do home visits postpartum. They help with breastfeeding and adjusting to life with a new baby. They work together and with other health professionals.

Midwives practice evidence based and woman centered maternity and newborn care and are an established part of the BC health care system.”

The BC midwives website provides a complete list of FAQ’s and answers on their very user friendly website at www.bcmidwives.com.

– Mariapaula Featherston is a Vancouver writer and lover of natural things.  You can find more of her writing at www.mommyknowsbest.com under the Blogger Name: ModernMom.