Toni Saik (left) with her son Elliot, Serenity Brown and her mom Sabrina Brown attend a rally in support of midwifery. (Photo by Lana Michelin, Advocate staff).

Midwifery supporters rally in Red Deer for better access to the birthing service

Alberta Health promises “under-served” Alberta communities will get more midwives

Midwifery advocates came to demonstrate, but received news they hope to celebrate.

Supporters rallying in Red Deer City Hall Park on Friday for better access to midwifery services, were cautiously optimistic upon hearing the government plans to increase the number of midwives in under-served parts of the province — including rural and remote areas.

Since Red Deer only has four practising midwives and Rocky Mountain House has two, rally organizer Linnea Deutscher hopes this means Central Alberta will soon have better access to midwifery services.

Alberta Health Services spokesperson Tim Wilson said the communities that will be targeted haven’t yet been determined.

The province has committed almost $13 million in additional funds for midwifery care since 2015. This means 400 additional women in each year from 2016 to 2019 will be served with midwife-assisted births.

According to Alberta Health Services, some 2,374 Alberta women received birthing assistance by a midwife in 2014-15. This is expected to grow to 3,974 by 2018-19.

Deutscher questioned whether this will make enough of a difference, since 1,300 women are on waiting lists in the province for birthing assistance by midwives. The additional funding “is better than nothing,” she said, “but let’s keep it going until we get to where we need to be.”

The registered nurse who works in a maternity ward believes all expectant mothers should have a choice of whether to deliver their babies in hospital settings or at home with a midwife.

Just as per-capita education grants follow Alberta students, regardless of whether they are schooled in public, Catholic, or private schools, expectant mothers should be able to choose how their portion of health care dollars is spent, she added.

Deutscher delivered three of her nine children with a midwife. She noted studies have shown midwives help reduce pre-term births, help boost breastfeeding success, and lower the number of cesarean sections.

“Many women need to be in a hospital to deliver, but let’s allow low-risk women be able to choose midwifery services. It saves tax money, empowers women and makes them better mothers,” Deutscher added.

Some women at the rally of about 60 people could not get midwifery services — including said Toni Saik, who applied for the service months before delivering her son in a hospital.

Her friend, Sabrina Brown, feels lucky to have had a midwife at two of her children’s births, since demand for the service has grown.

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