Midwife care is growing in popularity as women look for more birthing options

By Lisa Hart

Amie Boyd and her husband, Simon Ward, chose to have their three children using midwives. Photo: Megan Ward.
The Midwives of Lindsay and the Lakes offer more one-on-one support than hospital-only births. Photo: Lisa Hart.

In 2023, while Ross Memorial Hospital was recording 197 births, The Midwives of Lindsay and the Lakes were attending 123 births – with a quarter of them taking place at home.

The town of Lindsay started out with one midwife in March of that year, but their team quickly began to grow. The coming year will see their ranks expand to include five registered midwives, enabling them to open a satellite office in Cannington this summer. Still, more midwives are needed to meet the demand for their services in the Kawarthas.

It is a competitive program to get into, with only 60 students accepted annually by the two universities offering training in Ontario – Toronto Metropolitan and McMaster. Students complete a four-year undergraduate degree through the Ontario Midwifery Education program. Once registered, they are required to complete a mentorship year with an experienced midwife.

In contrast to many of the health care services in the Kawartha Lakes, Lindsay’s midwives have successfully attracted new professionals and convinced them to settle in our area once they finish their training.

That training encourages midwives to see pregnancy as more than a medical event requiring testing and monitoring. They learn to understand and support the bigger picture that ushers in a complete change in roles for the pregnant people, and their partners if one is involved. While some may find the phrase “pregnant people” unfamiliar, a midwife will explain it is an inclusive term used to encompass transgender individuals giving birth.

Witnessing the journey from individual to parent is what truly fascinates local midwife Kirsten Schmidt. Schmidt is passionate about ensuring the process is a holistic and empowering experience. The wraparound care provided by midwives focuses on not just the physical but also the mental, social, and spiritual aspects to help clients reach their full potential as parents. Midwives help connect those without strong social support with other parents and resources to help them make this important transition in their lives.

While most clients start their care with a midwife at around 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, care can begin at any point. Pregnant people are encouraged to reach out regardless of due date or previous care provider.

Beyond ultrasounds, bloodwork, and other tests, midwives provide personalized care throughout the client’s birth journey. In addition to 24/7 access for urgent concerns, support during labour and catching the baby, midwives play a valuable role in education and supporting the informed decisions made by their clients.

“Each birth is totally unique and special,” says Schmidt. “When parents find their way, their strength and their voice, it is an amazing day.”

Seeing firsthand the phenomenal care her sister received from midwives during the birth of her children, Amie Boyd considered the decision to use a midwife for the delivery of her own children a “no-brainer.”

“I was so well supported in all of my pregnancies. I never questioned my decision to have midwives. Everything from prenatal to delivery to postnatal care was so thorough and well explained to me,” says Boyd.

All three of Boyd’s children were born under the care of a midwife, the first two at home and the last at Ross Memorial Hospital. During her last pregnancy, Boyd brought her two-year-old daughter to her monthly checkups. The midwife always included the little girl in the process, making it a special experience for mother and big sister.

Misconceptions still exist about the possible costs associated with midwife care as well as confusion surrounding how their care compares to that of a doula. “Unlike doulas, who are a wonderful resource for pregnant people,” Schmidt explains, “midwives are primary health care providers who have been funded in Ontario by OHIP since 1994.”

Lindsay Tattersall demonstrates a baby being weighed under midwife care. Photo: Lisa Hart.

Clients do not need a referral to see a midwife. Under their care, clients can deliver at home or in the hospital, and their delivery may involve an epidural or a C-section.

“We have a fabulous working relationship with our local OB, nurses and hospital administration. They are very supportive of midwives,” says Schmidt. And when from time to time the hospital finds itself short of nursing staff, the midwives return that support by helping out with labour and delivery.

The pressures from shortfalls in health care services are most acutely felt by the midwives when the babies reach six weeks of age. With so many individuals attempting to find a primary health care provider, it can be a struggle for parents to find a physician or nurse practitioner to take over the baby’s long-term care.

The Midwives of Lindsay and the Lakes’ website has resource pages that provide lots of general information and links to sites that the midwives love to help guide prospective parents on their way to raising happy, healthy babies.

Local midwives have also been working with pregnant homeless and substance-using women in Lindsay to ensure they, too, have the special support they need.

To celebrate the miracle of life, the local midwives are accepting donations of money, gift cards for pharmacies and grocery stores as well as gently used items for babies up to six months. All donations collected go directly to families in need within our community.

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