Alix Bacon, president of the Midwives Association of B.C., visited Nanaimo Wednesday morning to discuss the future of midwifery in the province as part of her B.C. tour.
Bacon said one of the goals of the Midwives Association of B.C. is to have midwives involved in 35 per cent of births in the province by 2020.
In Nanaimo, midwives are involved in 30 per cent of the births, higher than the provincial average of 21 per cent. Bacon said in Nanaimo it isn’t lack of demand that is impeding the growth, there is a waiting list for midwives, but a lack of midwives.
“We are hoping to see two midwifery posts opening soon here to meet the growing demand,” said Bacon.
Expansion of the midwife program from 10 spaces to 20 at the University of British Columbia will help provide more midwives for the province, she said. The first group of 20 graduates in 2017.
Another goal of the association is to increase the scope of care. Currently midwives can provide health care such as breast exams and pap exams while women are pregnant and during the first three months after the birth of their child.
“What we’d like to be able to do is offer those services to women throughout their lives, because we get a lot of women who come to us and say ‘I don’t have a family physician,’ ‘I don’t want to go to a walk-in clinic,’” said Bacon.
She said the association would like midwives to be able to prescribe contraception, to take care of babies until they are a year old and expand other care options.
“Fifty per cent of my clients, after I discharge them, have not been able to find a GP,” said Bacon.
Another goal is to increase access to midwives, especially in rural, northern and First Nations communities.
Bacon said in Haida Gwaii women are flown out to larger city centres to give birth prior to labour. The goal is to allow the women to stay in their communities. Smaller communities have a lower birth rate and wouldn’t normally have enough work to sustain a midwives practice, but through partnership with First Nations communities to offer expanded services such as pre-natal education and mom and baby groups the midwives are able to stay.
Bacon said there are still some misunderstandings about midwives.
“I would like people to know that a midwife is a primary care provider who is highly trained, they’ve done a four-year degree … and are experts in low-risk birth and they will meet all the needs of a low-risk pregnant woman,” said Bacon.
She added midwives’ services are also covered by the Medical Services Plan and births can take place at home or a hospital.
The association is holding an annual general meeting and conference in Victoria Oct. 26-28.