When I heard Fredericton had a midwifery clinic and I had the chance to receive prenatal and postnatal care from the midwives, I was so excited and hopeful. I called the clinic the day that I found out I was pregnant and was immediately put on a waitlist. I was lucky enough to be accepted into their care during my first trimester.
The midwives provided my partner and I with so much information that helped prepare us for the life adjustment of becoming parents. Our first day at the clinic, our appointment was at least an hour long where we discussed my medical history in depth.
The most important aspect of midwifery care in my opinion would be the focus on informed consent. With birth, there are so many decisions, big and small, and it is so important to be aware of the various interventions. In our overwhelmed health care system, we are often told what we “need” to do, or what we “should” do, simply because the information needs to get communicated quickly. With the midwives, every single intervention and decision was thoroughly explained to us, which gave me the agency to feel like I had control over my pregnancy and my birth. This was very empowering for me and eased my anxiety. Everything was our choice, our decision.
The Midwifery Centre in Fredericton as a physical space feels welcoming and less clinical than the hospital. I was happy to be able to have bloodwork done there, as well as other swabs and tests.
I was also pregnant during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was glad to avoid hospital trips/potential exposures whenever possible.
I had access to the midwives 24/7 – so if we had a concern, we could call them at any time to discuss it. Had I not been in their care, this could have been a 12-hour wait in the emergency room to discover that everything was fine.
When it came to my birth, I had a unique experience in that my daughter came into the world extremely quickly. I chose to have my birth at the hospital, but I wanted to labour at home where I feel most comfortable. When my contractions started in the middle of the night, my partner and I called our midwife and she calmly advised me to breathe through my contractions and take a warm bath. Then, when things began to accelerate, she came to our home and assessed that it was time to go to the hospital. We arrived to meet another midwife as the first had finished her shift. It was just me, my partner, our midwife, and there was another nurse at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital who came and introduced themselves and said they would be there as extra support. I was lucky enough that everything went smoothly. Our midwife said we would be able to go home that afternoon with our baby if we wanted. It was so comforting to be able to go home with her.
We continued to have access to the midwives 24/7 postpartum. Breastfeeding was extremely difficult for us, and we needed lots of support. The midwives came to our home frequently to help us with this. Those first few weeks of postpartum are challenging, and I had so many questions. The midwives checked in with me emotionally, and physically as I healed.
Any birthing person in New Brunswick should be able to have the same experience that I had, if midwifery care is something that they want.
It is my understanding that Fredericton has the only midwifery clinic in New Brunswick – and that province currently only has four midwives: three full-time and one part-time.
Midwives assist with homebirths, and two midwives are required for this. If you live more than 60 minutes from the Midwifery Centre in a rural area, you do not have the option of midwifery care. As you can imagine, with only four midwives, anything outside of the urban area would be too large of a catchment area.
When I think about the time that the midwives spent with me, I can only imagine how difficult managing their caseload is on a day-to-day basis, especially with the spontaneous nature of birth.
Midwives can alleviate the strain on our crumbling health care system. They are trained, evidence-based medical professionals who provide a holistic approach.
With the enormous provincial surplus (around $862 million), I am scratching my head as to why services such as midwifery care cannot be allocated the funding that they need and deserve.
Your geographical location should not be part of the criteria for receiving midwifery care. I truly believe that the midwives made my experience positive, and I want all birthing people to have access to this phenomenal, person-centred care. This should be the standard of care.
I was happy to see that Fredericton MLA David Coon of the Green Party recently met with the midwives to discuss how midwives can strengthen the healthcare system. I am glad that these discussions are happening, but I want to see action.
My question is to Premier Blaine Higgs – what will it take for the expansion of midwifery care in New Brunswick? We have identified that our health care system, and specifically reproductive health care, is chronically underfunded. To break down the silos, we need to look at the good work that is already being done in our province and how we can use this to our advantage. The expansion of midwifery care in New Brunswick would be an asset to our province and the well-being of birthing people, and I urge you to consider acting now.
I have sent this to my MLA and Premier Blaine Higgs. If you are reading this and this cause is important to you, please share your experience and add your voice.
Thank you for your time (and thank you NB midwives!)
Eve Baird is a social worker based in Fredericton.