Midwifery: Women have waited long enough

What is the problem anyway?

Published on November 23, 2016

Joyce England holds baby Kit Bhuiyan outside the Coles Building in Charlottetown on Nov. 22, 2016 for a rally in support of a call to regulate midwifery in P.E.I.

©Ryan Ross/TC Media

Most other provinces in Canada license midwives to deliver babies into the world. But not on P.E.I. About 20 people gathered outside the Coles Building in Charlottetown Tuesday to see what they can do to change that. The group braved the cool weather to show support, some toting babies who were likely born in hospitals because there are no other options on P.E.I.

They brought with them a petition signed by over 650 people, which was tabled in the legislature by MLA Kathleen Casey.

Midwives are trained professionals providing a valuable service. It is a profession and so should be regulated.

But why wait until then? How much more study is needed before coming up with a licensing process? All other provinces except Newfoundland have a midwifery-licensing program. Pick the best one and adopt it here. Journal Pioneer editorial board

Without that regulation it leaves women with only one other choice – to be cared for by an obstetrician and to have their baby delivered in the sterile environment of a hospital. Many prefer that option, but for others that’s not the experience they are looking for. Some would like to be able to deliver their child in the comfort and familiar surroundings of their own homes, like so many previous generations before them.

But it is difficult for midwives to practise in an unregulated location, as it can be an insurance or liability problem.

Birth Options Research Network, BORN, a local group that promotes midwifery has been lobbying the P.E.I. government to adopt a midwifery program for over a decade.

They thought they were getting close in 2010 when a task force was created to study how such a program would work on the Island.

Two years later, the province was still studying the issue. Then Health Minister Doug Currie said he wanted to find out how much a midwifery program would cost, and how it would fit in the health system.

Fast-forward four more years, and the P.E.I. government announced it was looking at integrating midwives into the health-care system. This announcement came from current Health Minister Robert Henderson during this past spring’s sitting of the legislature.

Henderson said the province was looking at legislation for a regulatory process to approve the credentials of midwives. He said his staff was working with the P.E.I. Midwives Association to come up with those regulations.

He suggested midwives could be part of the new women's reproductive health centre, which the government announced back in April as part of the plan to offer abortions in the province.

But why wait until then? How much more study is needed before coming up with a licensing process? All other provinces except Newfoundland have a midwifery-licensing program. Pick the best one and adopt it here.

All women, including Island women, should have a choice about how and where they give birth. And they should have that choice now. They should have had it long ago.