What are Midwives? 5 Fast Facts

dispelling myths about midwives
What are Midwives: Midwife Examining Pregnant Woman's Belly
© iStock / Kzenon

Are you considering engaging a midwife as your primary care provider during your pregnancy? You wouldn't be alone! In 2017, there were over 1,690 midwives working in Canada, and between 2016 and 2017, midwives attended 42,248 births!

The midwifery model of care is gaining popularity in Canada as more women discover the benefits of informed choice — a critical aspect of midwifery care. The guiding principal behind Canadian Midwifery care states that you, as the labouring mother, have the right to make decisions regarding your maternal care and those who provide your maternal care. Midwives provide care during pregnancy, labour, childbirth, and in the postpartum period.

Facts about midwives

If you are curious about midwives or are considering working with one, here is a list of fast facts about midwifery care: 

The difference between midwives and doulas

A midwife is not a doula. While doulas are professional birth assistants, they are not medically trained and as such cannot attend a birth on their own. A midwife, however, is a university-trained medical care provider. Midwifery students study for a period of time (between 4 to 7 years) and also get hands-on experience in the field with experienced, working midwives. It should also be noted that midwives are governed similarly to medical doctors with a professional college that both certifies and registers them

Pain relief options for labour

There is a misconception that women who birth with midwives go at it all-natural and just chew on strips of leather during contractions. This is not true! Remember the emphasis placed on informed choice? If you want an epidural, they won’t stop you from getting one. Midwives will help you develop and support your birth plan.

Hospital birth

While home birth is an option under midwifery care, about 75% of Canadian Midwife-attended births take place in a hospital. Again, it’s up to you! Some cities in Canada now also have midwife-led birthing centres as a third option for birth place.

Midwife appointment lengths

An average midwifery appointment lasts about 45 minutes. There is a lot of discussion and a lot of focus on the health and well-being of the mother to be. Compare this to a typical 15 minute session with a family doctor and you can see what I mean. The reason for the extended visits? To enable families to build trusting relationships with their midwife — and to let them ask lots of questions! 

Standard tests and standard of care

Midwives will order the same standard tests as a family doctor. They will then discuss the results with you and ensure you are comfortable and confident moving forward. Midwives offer the same high standard of care that you would receive if you were under the care of a family doctor or an obstetrician. Midwives also maintain the same schedule of appointments you would participate in under the care of a family doctor. 

Midwifery care is gaining in popularity so much that it can actually be difficult to secure one! If you feel you may be interested in midwifery care, find the collectives that serve your area and be ready to apply as soon as you know you are pregnant. Women will often be put on a waiting list, but hang in there — many women still end up with a midwife! 

*Originally published May 27, 2016