Midwives and Maternity Care: A Perfect Pair

Here’s the lowdown on the marvelous, but misunderstood role of a midwife

Midwives and maternity care
Midwives and maternity care

There is a well-kept secret in Canadian maternity care: the midwife. Anyone who’s worked with a midwife will attest to how great the model of care is, and yet many people have misconceptions and reservations. Here’s the lowdown on the marvelous but misunderstood role of a midwife.

Midwives are health professionals who are highly trained in normal pregnancy and birth. In Canada, some midwives have earned a university degree in midwifery and others have years of apprenticeship training or nursing credentials, but all of them have passed rigorous certification requirements and exams in order to practice midwifery.

As her client (not her “patient”), a midwife cares for you and your baby from early pregnancy, through labour and birth, and for six weeks postpartum. The focus of care goes far beyond the physical: all aspects of your experience, including emotional, cultural and spiritual, are of concern to a midwife. You’ll find your midwife spends a lot of time with you at your appointments – typically, they’ll last half an hour to two hours!

The midwifery model of care recognizes that pregnancy and childbirth are normal physiological processes. This means you’ll find less of an emphasis on medical interventions and more of a trust in your body to give birth just as it is designed to. Midwives are experts in normal birth, but they also help birth to stay normal. Research shows that under the care of a midwife, you’re less likely to have your labour induced, to have an episiotomy, or to have a caesarean section.

This doesn’t mean that midwives can’t handle unexpected circumstances or birth-related emergencies. Midwives consult with other health professionals as needed, and if necessary, they will transfer your care to an obstetrician.

Many people associate midwives with home birth, but midwives can also care for you if you want to give birth in a hospital or birth centre. And although midwives have an arsenal of techniques to help you cope with pain without drugs (think massage, movement, sitting or rocking on a birthing ball, etc.), if you’re having a hospital birth with a midwife, you can still receive an epidural or other drugs for pain relief if you want.

And according to the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey, more women cared for by midwives at birth report being “very positive” about their overall experience of labour and birth than those attended by other health care providers.


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