Midwives push for government support

The Yukon Midwifery Lobby Group is one step closer to realizing its dream of having its work funded by the Yukon government.

The Yukon Midwifery Lobby Group is one step closer to realizing its dream of having its work funded by the Yukon government.

“We’re in the first part of the process of bringing up the question, ‘Should midwifery be regulated?’” said mother and lobbyist Asheya Hennessey, after meeting with the government last week.

She’s in favour of regulation for consumer safety.

As well, regulation would help establish protocols for midwifery in the hospital, and with doctors and nurses, said Hennessey.

“Ultimately I’m interested in getting it funded, but for a health profession to be funded it would first have to be regulated,” she said.

“I feel very positive and I feel that things are moving forward and that there will be action taken on this issue.”

Hennessey gave birth to her son Elias in a hospital with a doctor just over a year ago.

She would rather have had a midwife perform the birth, but could not afford the $2,500 it would cost for private midwife services.

So Hennessey pulled together a group of mothers to lobby the government to fund midwifery under the health act and medical services.

“We’re doing this so a woman would be able to choose if she wanted a doctor to be her primary caregiver for her maternity care, or if she wanted a midwife to be her primary caregiver, so it would provide more choices for women,” said Hennessey.

“Right now there are few women who have that choice open to them.

 “Some women just don’t feel comfortable having a home birth and some women just don’t have $2,500, so it’s not really an option for all women in the Yukon right now and we’d like to see that that becomes a choice for all women.”

Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, as well as several provinces have regulated and funded midwifery under their medical service plans.

“The reason why I personally value midwifery is because one of a midwife’s mandates is informed choice for the woman,” said Hennessey.

“A lot of doctors just don’t have time in that 15-minute appointment to go over all the different options for care and the risks and the benefits to the different procedures and tests.

“A midwife really values a woman being able to make her choice based on being educated.

“Midwives spend between half an hour and an hour in every appointment talking to the woman and educating her about the issues that come up in pregnancy and issues of childbirth and post partum.”

They discuss breast feeding versus formula feeding, drugs versus natural pain management during labour, subjecting yourself to blood tests to check for birth defects during pregnancy and other issues.

Local midwife Heather Ashthorn supports government funding, but is concerned about what a regulated profession would look like.

She fears that her services would become less accessible to woman if regulated and funded.

“There becomes a real system of permission, so midwives are permitted to do low-risk births and not permitted to be involved in the care of anybody with high risk.”

There are certain high-risk cases that a midwife wouldn’t accept, and there are others they would, she said.

And those families might benefit from a midwife’s care.

“So you get a whole bunch of people who fall into that category who really could quite likely have a better outcome than they would within the western medical system, but they are not able to access midwifery because midwifes are not permitted to work with them,” said Ashthorn.

 “It sort of shifts the accessibility more than it creates it.”

Ashthorn would like to see as much freedom of choice remain for women and their families as they have in the Yukon’s current unregulated system.

“Hopefully we’d have a choice where midwives are self-regulated and we’d have a choice of what kind of a practice we’d like to be in,” she said.

“One of the things that I am really committed to standing up for is a system where families still have as much choice as they do now — they can choose a regulated midwife, they can chose an unregulated midwife, they can choose their grandmother, they can give birth at home or in the hospital, whatever they want to do to get access to that service.

 “They can pay, they can not pay — whatever they need — and then the flip side of that is that midwives are able to choose what kind of practice they are in.

“That’s where I come from; it’s just creating choice for everybody and making sure that that whole gamut is available.

“I’ve seen friends go through regulated systems in other provinces and they are now grossly unsatisfied with the professions that they are in.

“They got into the profession for a completely different reason than what they are able to provide now.

“That’s really sad and I think that’s a pretty harsh reality — to go through all of that training to then become part of a system that you don’t even like.”

The territory should have regulated and funded midwifery, said Yukon Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.

“Our party has long had a policy supportive of midwifery, so the Liberal caucus supports including that in medical coverage.

However, it must be regulated and supported by legislation drafted in consultation with all health practitioners, “to make sure everybody is on board and onside and comfortable with it,” said Mitchell.

NDP MLA John Edzerza also supports funded midwifery in the territory.

Women should have the choice to have their babies at home or in a hospital, he said.

“From what I understand about it and from some of the ladies that I have talked to, I think the comfort of home is a good thing too,” said Edzerza.

“There’s not so much stress there, you feel relaxed … but of course nowadays it’s important that things are regulated and that’s probably the process that will happen.”

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