The IWK Health Centre's delay in using midwives to facilitate homebirths is unnecessary and limits expectant mothers’ right to choose where they give birth, activists said yesterday.

 

The IWK was chosen as one of three sites in Nova Scotia to integrate midwifery into its primary maternity care team after the Midwifery Act passed March 18. The hospital hired four midwives who are involved in the steps leading up to birth, but not the birth itself. Last week, a hospital press release said the IWK homebirth policy “will be approved in the coming months.”

 

“We were told in March that home births would be available within two weeks after the midwives were hired. Then we were told it would be a few more weeks, and (now) it will be many months. Well, that will be too late for many women and their families,” said Christine Saulnier, co-chair of the Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia.

 

“This is a waste of time and energy for everyone involved – pregnant women, midwives and the IWK. This causes tensions and produces adversarial relations instead of collaborative ones,” added Erin Hemmens, co-chair of the coalition. She argued the Midwifery Regulatory Council’s homebirth policy could simply be incorporated by the IWK, “something that would not take this long.”

“Homebirth has been proven safe when a woman who fits the screening criteria is attended by a regulated, skilled midwife,” she said.

Jocelyn Vine, vice-president of patient care at the IWK, said it takes time to implement such a big project, and that they've “made remarkable progress in the last three months."

The hospital is working with midwives to make sure a safe program is put in place as quickly as possible, she added. She couldn’t offer a set date when the homebirthing program would be fully rolled out.