For the first time ever, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has proclaimed Day of the Midwife in Vancouver, to be celebrated on the same day as International Day of the Midwife on May 5. Vancouver midwives have much to celebrate, not least of which is how midwives have stepped up to support the healthcare system during the pandemic.
For midwives in Vancouver, BC and across Canada, this past year has added an extra layer of demands to an already challenging, though rewarding job. With new and constantly changing pandemic safety measures, such as COVID exposure precautions and pandemic planning to keep families safe, midwives have played an important role in keeping maternity services running smoothly across the province. Since Dr. Bonnie Henry announced in March that midwives were invited to participate in vaccine clinic, many midwives have also been vaccinating British Columbians.
As primary healthcare providers, BC midwives have played an important role taking the burden off hospitals during a crucial time. In addition, BC midwives deliver more than one quarter of the babies in the province. At 26%, it’s the highest rate in Canada and the second highest in North America. And public demand for midwives continues to grow. In BC, midwives have reached an all-time high in parents seeking midwifery care during pregnancy, birth and postpartum, with 89% of midwives reporting increased interest in home births among their clients during COVID.
In the City’s proclamation, Mayor Kennedy Stewart writes: “The City of Vancouver recognizes that access to quality pregnancy and birth services contributes to a healthier, happier community. Registered midwives are essential frontline healthcare workers who provide skilled, inclusive, trauma-informed, culturally sensitive, patient-centered, evidence-based care during pregnancy, postpartum, as well as taking care of newborns. Families who receive midwifery care enjoy better health outcomes, including fewer hospital admissions and lower rates of c-sections, as well as have choice of birth place and home visits.”
“It is an honor to have our work recognized,” said Lehe Spiegelman, President of the Midwifery Association of BC (MABC). “Midwives have been working tirelessly this past year to keep families safe and continue to provide excellent pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. While providing essential services, midwives have been able to keep families out of high exposure settings and reduce pressure on the healthcare system at a time when B.C. is deep into the third wave of the pandemic. To know that our work is being recognized is hugely gratifying. I celebrate my colleagues on this day and each day.”
With the pandemic, BC midwives are now working more than ever. As a result, workplace-related burnout has increased and a reported 1 in 5 midwives in BC report wanting to leave the profession, a doubling in the last few years. Between January and April of this year, a growing number of midwifery clinics in Metro Vancouver - 17 - have posted for positions, a much higher number than usual and much higher than the 2 in Calgary and 3 in Toronto. “This is an unusually high number, normally there are only a couple postings as we see in other major centres. What this points to is a potential crisis and puts an additional strain on midwives – both urban and rural,” says MABC board member and midwife Colleen Fulton. “Essentially, physicians are leaving and as a result, there’s a new gap in maternity care, so it’s more important than ever to help midwives lean into the gap and solve the impending maternity care crisis in BC and across Canada.”
As in past years, the B.C. government has also proclaimed May 5 as British Columbia’s Midwife Day in recognition of the contributions made by midwives in our province.
Key Facts about Midwifery in BC: