Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Birth Story - Part Four (In Praise of Midwives)

When I tell the stories of how my children were born, I love to share how much we appreciated having midwives.  And whether my sister is around or not, I always imagine her interjecting at some point to tell her story.  Since she is not as bloggy as I, please let my rendition of things suffice.

Five years ago, my sister was in the middle of a difficult (first) pregnancy.  She had pain, she had difficulty eating, she had shortness of breath.  She did not enjoy being pregnant and she was ready to be done.  She went into the hospital to deliver her little girl.  Complications arose.  Heart-rates spiked and then dropped.  Blood pressure was rising.  A C-Section was done.  I do not know all the details.  But I do know that my niece had a stroke when she was born.  She lives with cerebral palsy today as a result of that stroke.

My sister has always said she was very glad to be in a hospital when she delivered because "who knows" what would have happened had she been at home with a midwife.  And I agree with her.  I'm very glad she was at a hospital for my niece's birth.  And I'm quite certain that the doctors at the hospital did everything possible to help make a bad situation as good as it could be.

This is when I like to jump back in though.  The thing that a lot of people don't understand about midwives is that they are very good about understanding what they do.  And when things happen outside of their training, they are wonderful about referring the mother to an obstetrician who knows how to deal with high-risk pregnancies. 

I appreciated the chart that the midwives gave me on that first visit.  It had a list of scenarios that would cause me to be referred to an OB.  Some were minor, some were major.  If one minor indicator arose, we would watch it.  If two minor indicators popped up, then they would discuss transferring care to an OB.  They were some indicators that were automatic transferal to an OB.  Midwives aren't snooty like that.  They just want the very best for each mother and baby.  I am convinced that sometime around the 7th month, my sister's symptoms would have triggered a transfer to an OB had she been under the care of midwives.

I want to turn your attention to what's happening in the Niagara Region right now.  The area of the Niagara region is 1,852 km².  We now have only two hospitals that have functioning maternity wards.  They are both on the north shore of the region (Grimsby and St Catharines.)  Local midwives and their clients could potentially have to drive over an hour to reach either of these hospitals, depending on where they live in the region.  For the unscheduled birth (as most are with midwives) that's far enough to be cause for concern.

The pink dot shows the St. Catharines Hospital location.  Grimsby is up to the left.
There has been talk of opening Birthing Centres in Ontario to accomodate the women who want to have midwives but don't want to give birth at home.  It's a safe alternative to hospitals and with our current geographical layout, a couple strategically placed Birthing Centres would be a wonderful and welcome addition to the area.  The much-maligned Niagara Health System would find itself getting many pats on the back and words of praise for such a cost-effective decision.  Frankly, it would be akin to a shot of adrenaline for a sytem that is failing those in the southern half of the region.

To read more on midwives and Birthing Centres in Ontario, check out this recent article from the Welland Tribune.  (The midwife in the article, Anne...  She was in our home when Riley was born.  Anne took her vitals and cared for her in her first few moments of life.)

My point in all this is to help you understand that midwives are a great place to start when you're at the beginning of this pregnancy journey.  They will hold your hand and lead you along as you get your feet under you.  And they are humble enough to know when it's best to hand your care over to an obstetrician.  They only want to see a healthy mama deliver a healthy baby, every time.  It doesn't matter if it's under their care or not.

Read the rest here:
Part One - Luke's Birth Story
Part Two - Riley's Birth Story
Part Three - Simon's Birth Story

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