Over the years, midwives have been gaining ground in Burnaby to help parents catch their babies, despite there not being a local clinic catering to mothers in the city.
There are between 16 and 35 midwives that have privileges at Burnaby Hospital and help local parents, but a large Vancouver-based midwifery practice just passed the Boundary border on Hastings Street mostly has local parents utilizing their services.
"I would say a good half of our clients are in Burnaby," Marijke de Zwager, of Pomegranate Community Midwives, told the Burnaby NOW. "There's definitely an opportunity to open a satellite clinic because now we also get calls from New Westminster, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, but we can't take those clients because they're too far out."
Coquitlam and New Westminster both have their own midwifery practices, but for some reason Burnaby has yet to have one. There are currently 192 midwives practicing in the province.
"I think it's probably because nobody has started one, it really is," de Zwager said. "It's a really great opportunity, to be honest. We've talked about it here, talked about whether we could start a satellite clinic in Burnaby."
de Zwager, a practicing midwife for the past five years, said that many people think midwives only cater to those who want to have home births, but that's not the case. She said catching the baby, another term for delivering a baby, is only part of what they do.
"We probably have about a 40 per cent home birth rate. Not all clinics have it that high, but at our clinic most of the teams have that high of a rate," she said. "Most clinics have a 10 to 20 per cent home birth rate. It's not up to me, it's up to the family to decide where they're going to have their baby and where they're going to be most comfortable."
Midwives, like doctors, are a service that's covered by the Medical Services Plan, from the moment the expecting mother walks in the door, and up to eight weeks post-partum.
"We care for women in the same schedule as obstetricians or family doctors, but we actually have 45-minute visits, which is why we spend so much time with people. We get to know them very well," she said. "One of our big premises is informed choice. ... There's a lot more empowerment during their pregnancy in general."
de Zwager, and many of the midwives at her practice, have privileges at Burnaby Hospital, which she says she's developed a great working relationship with over the years.
"We love Burnaby Hospital," she said. "It's a really great small hospital and everybody knows each other. We meet monthly at the department"
So, how does one become a midwife? Well, you don't have to be a mother or have decades of experience in birthing.
The role of midwives has drastically changed since 1998, which is when midwifery became officially government regulated and covered by MSP. Midwives mostly work with low-risk births, and when complications do arise beyond their scope, that's when the doctor comes in. In the case of a complicated birth, doctors take primary care, but midwives can stay by the mother's side, as well.
On the West Coast, there's a four-year bachelor's degree program offered at the University of British Columbia's faculty of medicine.
Lauren Redman is gaining experience at Pomegranate as she completes her degree at UBC. She has a previous degree in women's studies, as well.
"I attended my first birth with my mom's friend," she said. "I naturally gravitated towards midwifery because of my own naturalistic ideas of things."
Redman said she's being mentored at Pomegranate, and one of her favourite aspects on the job is empowering a woman.
"I feel like, because we have such long discussions about everything, and develop a really good relationship and repore, I think people start thinking about themselves and their health in a new way and pregnancy is a really good time for change for people," she said.
Ganga Jolicoeur, Midwives Association of B.C. executive director, said midwives still face stigmas and preconceived notions despite it being regulated and covered by MSP since 1998.
"Misunderstandings, stigmas, and some really innocent misunderstandings are an easy thing to dispel as long as you can get someone's attention on the topic," she told the NOW. "Once we have the opportunity, we can turn people around very quickly. (People) tend to think when you pick midwifery you're choosing home birth only."
Jolicoeur said most clients come from word of mouth.
"I think as our organization matures, our ability to get the word out is getting more effective," she said. "As our number of midwives grow, each of them are doing their part to promote their option. Women talk to each other, as we well know. Friends who have been through any type of care talk about their pregnancy and their birth."
The association's goal is to push for the expansion of midwifery across the province, which is to have midwives attend 35 per cent of the total number of births in B.C. by 2020.
"That's a little more than doubling what we're doing now, but keep in mind that we have had a natural growth already," she added. "We've gone from 14 to 18 per cent in less than two years."
There's a strong midwifery presence within the Fraser Health Authority, as well, she said.
"More and more women, especially in B.C., have trouble accessing care in their own community, or close to their own community," Jolicoeur said. "The biggest challenge is just making sure there are appropriate levels of support and dialogue to move this issue forward. ... We will make our way to meeting our goals."
As for de Zwager, her favourite moment while helping parents is watching the "lightbulb go off."
"There are so many amazing moments," she said. "I love it when dad's catch babies or mom's catch their own babies."