On Labour Day, about 30 women — and a few men — gathered in downtown Red Deer to make clear the way they want to give birth.
Mothers, fathers, and plenty of little ones congregated in Veterans Park on Monday morning to call for more provincial funding for midwifery in Alberta. The Red Deer Support for Midwifery rally was one of four coordinated events held throughout the province on the day.
Among the attendees were many who have used the services of a midwife during their pregnancies, and some who wanted to, but could not access the service because of what they say is inadequate government funding.
Among the reasons given for choosing to go with the midwifery model of care were the more personal and less invasive experience it offers, and the option to give birth at home.
“Pizzas are delivered, babies are birthed. We don’t want someone to come deliver a child for us, we want people to birth with us,” said Jem Mathieson.
While the number of Albertans wishing to utilize the services of a midwife has risen in recent years — there is a long wait list for expectant mothers — Mathieson said the renewed interest in the practice is far from some “new age” trend, noting that the trade of midwifery is essentially as old as humanity itself.
Since 1998, midwives have been regulated professionals in Alberta, and in 2009 midwifery services became publicly funded. Earlier this year, the provincial government signed a three-year funding agreement with Alberta Health Services for midwife services worth $37 million, the first formal compensation deal for the province’s over 70 midwives.
But, according to local rally organizer Elly Jacobson, that dollar figure is not enough. Each midwife in the province can take 40 “courses of care” per year, and with each course of care costing $4,600, Jacobson said the province should have committed at least $42.5 million in the contract.
The rally attendees were not midwives themselves — there are two serving the Red Deer area and two in a practice in Rocky Mountain House — but primarily women who have used the service and want to see more awareness of it. Jacobson said in the province there are 77 midwives attending four per cent of all births, while in B.C. and Ontario there are many more attending to approximately 10 per cent of births.
“For any normal, low-risk birth, the midwifery course of care is a much more desirable option,” said Jacobson, who has given birth through the more common health system approach and with the aid of a midwife.
Organizers said there are seven unemployed midwives in the province due to a lack in funding, and one has already chosen to move to B.C. to practice. A new program at Calgary’s Mount Royal University will graduate about a dozen students in midwifery in 2015, and Jacobson said unless funding levels are increased, those graduates will not be able to enter into the field in Alberta.
Provincial Health Minister Fred Horne was not available for comment on the issue, but through a statement from his office, Horne said the government has recognized the fact that more Albertans are seeking out the services of a midwife and it has increased funding alongside the increase in demand.
“Over the past approximately five years, we have nearly doubled our investment in midwifery to the current level of $12.4 million, subsidized their malpractice insurance, and our current three-year agreement with the Alberta Association of Midwives has made it possible for patients to access midwifery services in provincial hospitals.”