Yukon commits to midwife working group

The Community Association of Midwives Yukon is thrilled that the Yukon government has committed to study the issue of regulating midwifery in the territory.

The Community Association of Midwives Yukon is thrilled that the Yukon government has committed to study the issue of regulating midwifery in the territory.

“This is the most positive feedback that I’ve received,” said midwife Kathleen Cranfield, the group’s president.

Health Minister Mike Nixon presented a motion to the legislature this week about the creation of a working group.

It will involve midwives, doctors, nurses, the Yukon government and other stakeholders, and they will study regulations across Canada and determine the path forward for the Yukon.

The fact that Yukon does not have midwife legislation makes it very hard for midwives to do their jobs, and for women to access their services, Cranfield said.

Cranfield has worked as a registered midwife in Ontario and B.C.

She returned to the Yukon about two years ago to work as a midwife and push for midwife regulation.

“I think it’s really important that people have that choice to get that specialized care from a midwife.”

While Yukoners can have a baby here through a midwife, they have to pay out of pocket.

The cost is typically between $2,500 and $3,000, said Cranfield.

And because of the lack of regulation, there is very little ability for midwives to work collaboratively with the rest of the medical system.

“There’s this sort of divide, and that divide doesn’t need to be there, in this day and age.”

In jurisdictions where the practice is regulated, midwives can order medical tests for their clients and easily access doctor and nurse care when necessary.

Clients can choose to have their birth at home or in the hospital, supervised by their midwife.

If a home birth becomes complicated, the midwife can admit their client to the hospital and continue to lead the birth, with the assistance of doctors as required.

Here in the Yukon, women who choose to hire a midwife don’t have those options.

Only a home birth is possible. If they are moved to hospital, their midwife gets cut out of the equation and a doctor who has potentially never seen them before takes over.

“It makes more sense for midwives to work collaboratively, within the same system as doctors.”

It can also save the government money, since midwife care allows women to avoid expensive hospital and doctor visits.

The Community Association of Midwives Yukon’s mission is to see midwifery regulation for the territory, including public funding so that the service is accessible for all, Cranfield said.

How and when that happens will come out of the working group’s work, she said.

“I think it’s a really big step, that this has happened, I think it’s really positive. It’s such a change from the last time we heard from the government.”

The Yukon government has been talking about writing midwifery legislation since at least 1996.

The Liberal government of the early 2000s promised regulation, but never brought it forward.

In December then-Health minister Doug Graham said that further study of the issue was not high on his department’s priority list. He said that process might start in late 2015 or early 2016.

“There are other priorities that are much higher, in terms of the medical professions in the Yukon, than midwifery.”

Today, by contrast, there seems to be some real momentum, said Cranfield.

Two ministers and a deputy minister showed up for the association’s celebration of the International Day of the Midwife on Tuesday, she said.

“The physicians seem to be ready and supportive. All the stakeholders seem to be supportive – it just seems to be a really good time.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at