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Midwifery FAQs

What is a midwife? 

Midwives are educated health professionals who provide primary maternity care through pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum period, including care of the newborn infant in the first six weeks after birth. Midwives currently practice in most provinces and territories in Canada. 

What kind of care does a midwife provide?
As primary care providers, midwives may be the first point of entry to maternity services. Midwives are fully responsible for clinical decisions and the management of care, including: 

  • Assessing, monitoring, and caring for a woman during normal pregnancy, labour, delivery, and the postpartum period; 
  • Counselling, supporting, and advising a woman during pregnancy, labour, delivery, and the postpartum period; 
  • Managing a normal vaginal delivery; 
  • Caring for, assessing, and monitoring the healthy newborn; and 
  • Providing advice and information on care for newborns and infants, as well as on contraception and family planning.

I would like to have midwifery services during my pregnancy; how do I access a midwife? 
To reach the IWK Community Midwives Clinic, please call (902) 491-2292.

Will I automatically be referred to a midwife, even if I don’t want one?
No, only eligible women (i.e. healthy, low-risk) who request the services of a midwife will be referred to one. 

I want to have my baby at the IWK; can a midwife deliver my baby? 
Now that the Midwifery Act is proclaimed and in effect, midwives are able to provide complete maternity care, including labour and delivery.  

Does a midwife replace my family doctor or obstetrician? 
Midwives are independent care providers who provide care throughout the course of your pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum. A midwife acts as your primary caregiver during your pregnancy. IWK midwives will be part of a multidisciplinary team that may include family physicians, obstetricians, nurses, reproductive mental health professionals, social workers, nutritionists and public health nurses. Should your care require a physician due to a concern or complication, the midwife will refer you to the appropriate healthcare professional, and when appropriate, continue to provide care for you within her scope of practice. 

Haven’t we always had midwives in Nova Scotia? What is changing now? 
Midwives have been practicing in Nova Scotia and across the country for many, many years. In 2006, the Nova Scotia government passed legislation to regulate the profession of midwifery, to ensure public safety and allow midwives to become integrated into the public healthcare system. In other Canadian provinces and territories, midwifery has been regulated since the 1990s. 

Once the Midwifery Act was declared in effect, midwives had to go through a registration and licensing process with their governing regulatory body (The Midwifery Regulatory Council of Nova Scotia: MRCNS) in order to practice midwifery in Nova Scotia. Currently, the focus is on midwives as employees of DHAs and the IWK. 

Weren’t there already midwives working at the IWK? 
Prior to the proclamation of the Midwifery Act, we did have some RNs with midwifery training, but no staff members employed solely as midwives.  

Where in Nova Scotia will midwifery services be available? 
Midwifery services are available at three provincial model sites: the IWK Health Centre, the South Shore District Health Authority and the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority. 

I live in ________; can I access midwifery services? 
Initially, through the establishment of model sites, provincially funded midwives will work within care teams in a limited number of settings representing population and geographic diversity. This means that for now, midwives will care for patients within the DHA/IWK where they are employed. Access to midwifery services will increase over time. 

How are midwives educated? 
Midwifery education in Canada is a four-year baccalaureate (health sciences) program, currently offered at six universities in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. 

Since there is limited enrolment in midwifery programs, and the first Canadian midwifery education program only started in 1993, many currently registered midwives were educated outside of Canada. 

Midwives have a variety of educational and clinical backgrounds including vocational training (often hospital-based), apprenticeship training, and baccalaureate and masters level university-based education. 

All registered midwives in Canada, including those who were educated internationally, have undergone rigorous assessments to ensure that they meet the requirements and professional standards to deliver safe, competent, high quality care in the Canadian health system. In Nova Scotia, the registration process and requirements will be consistent with those in other Canadian provinces. 

How do midwives work with other health professionals? 
Midwives work collaboratively in multidisciplinary primary maternity care teams with other practitioners including family physicians, obstetricians, pediatricians, obstetrical, neonatal and public health nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, emergency medical personnel and other health and social service providers. 

What happens if there are complications? Will a physician or an obstetrician take over my care? 
If a complication arises at any point in the pregnancy, labour, birth, or postpartum, midwives consult with specialists such as obstetricians and pediatricians. In cases where management of care needs to be transferred to a physician, midwives will continue to provide supportive care. 

When should I contact a midwife? 
You can contact a midwife as soon as you know you are pregnant. 

When will I have my first prenatal visit? 
Most midwives will want to see you for your first visit as soon as you find out you're pregnant. She will likely book long introductory appointments to allow you a chance to learn about her midwifery practice and decide if midwifery care is right for you. 

What’s the difference between a midwife and a doula?
Doulas do not provide medical care, and do not deliver babies. Midwives are trained to provide all necessary medical care and ensure the health and well-being of women and their baby. Doulas work as a part of the team, with a midwife or doctor and nurse. Doulas provide continuous emotional and physical support to the labouring woman and her partner, and are a positive addition to the birth team for those couples who desire extra support.

What do midwives do in their roles?
The IWK community midwives provide a full spectrum of care including prenatal care, as well as delivering babies at the IWK Health Centre, and post-natal care following the births.

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