Getting proper care during pregnancy is an essential part of having a healthy pregnancy. Although many women automatically choose an obstetrician to provide them with care during their pregnancy, an increasing number of women in Ontario are choosing an alternative: a midwife.
Currently, there are approximately 700 registered midwives practising in 100 clinics across Ontario. Midwives provide care to the mother and baby throughout, during and after pregnancy, and their care philosophy is based on three principles:
- Continuity of care: Care is provided before, during and after pregnancy
- Informed choice: Women are the active decision-makers in the care they receive
- Choice of birthplace: Women choose where they want to give birth
“In Ontario, a midwife is a registered health-care professional who provides primary care to low-risk women throughout pregnancy, labour and birth. Midwives also provide care to both mother and baby during the six weeks following birth. They are available to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week by pager,” says Ontario Midwives.
However, the role of midwives is often misunderstood, which has led to misinformation and myths about who they are and about their role in the birthing process. Some associate them with home and water births, whereas others stereotype them as untrained birth coaches, but they are so much more than this.
Misconceptions about midwives
Here are the most common misconceptions about midwives:
- If I choose a midwife, I have to give birth at home. The truth is that 75% of midwife-assisted births in Canada take place in the hospital.
- I can’t have an epidural during labour. Midwives encourage women to be the primary decision-makers. “One of the cornerstones of midwifery is that the woman is the primary decision maker. If she decides she wants an epidural, we would never say, ‘No, you can’t have it.’ We spend a lot of time during the pregnancy talking about labour and birth, and what your options are. Then it’s entirely up to you,” says Lisa Weston, a midwife and vice-president of the Association of Ontario Midwives, in Today’s Parent.
- Midwives don’t have formal training.: Midwives are specialists in normal pregnancies. They are regulated in seven7 of the 10 Canadian provinces and are required to complete a four-year university program and register to practisce legally.
- Midwives are not as safe as doctors.: Midwives actually provide more intensive care than doctors. They are more attentive to your needs, as they typically manage fewer patients. If a medical issue arises during the pregnancy that is outside the scope of a midwife’s care, they will consult with a doctor.
- Midwives are expensive.: Similar to services of an obstetrician, midwifery care is covered by provincial health insurance. “Midwifery services are completely funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, so women do not pay for care out-of-pocket. Women who are not currently covered by OHIP can still receive free midwifery care,” says Ontario Midwives.
Benefits of choosing a midwife
There are many positive benefits to choosing a midwife, including:
- More attentive care
- Familiarity with the person delivering your baby
- Advocacy for you when you’re in the hospital
- Assistance with your birth plan
- Around-the-clock access to medical advice
- Better preparation for the mother before she gives birth
- More birthing options
- Flexibility in terms of care and, appointments
- Reduced chance of having a Caesarean section
- Mother and baby are both cared for
- Increased satisfaction with quality of care during pregnancy
- Increased chances of a positive start to breastfeeding
- Less need for pain medication during pregnancy
- Services are covered by OHIP
- High- quality post- pregnancy care