Midwife Candice Syme will never forget her first delivery…or her second…or third. Several hundred births later, she says the thrill is still there with every delivery she’s been part of because they’re all so unique.
“I love my job!” says Syme, who works with Burlington and Area Midwife Inc. She has been a practicing midwife since 2013. “I love helping families throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and postpartum. I feel like empowering women to make choices individualized to them is such a rewarding part of my job and I feel honoured to be a part of the birth story.”
Giving birth is definitely one of the most memorable experiences in a woman’s life. But it’s also an experience that has changed a lot over the generations. Before 1960, men weren’t allowed to go anywhere near a hospital delivery room and the use of medication during childbirth was the norm. Today, a woman’s partner plays an important role in the birth experience and there is a full scope of services that allow women more choices around how and where they want to deliver their baby.
Syme says that’s what the essence of midwifery is about – providing women with a range of choices, focusing on their needs and providing individualized care. “One of the main tenants of midwifery care is that it’s about client-centred care and what works for them and what works best to meet their needs,” she notes.
The 1970’s saw a resurgence in interest around midwifery, which was influenced by the natural childbirth movement. In 1991, the Midwifery Act made Ontario the first province in Canada to recognize, regulate and fund midwifery as part of the health care system. Two years later, the province’s first 71 midwives were registered. Today’s midwives are registered health care professionals who provide free primary care throughout a woman’s pregnancy, labour, birth and the first six weeks after birth. In Ontario, women can deliver in the home, hospital or select birth centres, although 80 percent of midwife deliveries occur in hospital settings.
With midwifery care, midwives always remain in a supportive care role, whether that’s with the postpartum visit, helping with breastfeeding or checking on the baby’s health. “We’re the primary care provider from conception to our first visit to six weeks post partum,” notes Syme. “I think the most glowing review we hear is that people feel supported and heard. That’s important because we want women to really feel empowered about their experience so they’re not feeling alone at such a vulnerable time in their lives.”
Although midwifery is a free service, only 16 percent of all births in Ontario are midwifery births. That’s not due to lack of interest but because there are only 90 spots in the universities that offer the midwifery program. They include McMaster, Ryerson and Laurentian.
The Burlington and Area Midwives include 16 midwives working within a catchment area that includes Waterdown, Flamborough, Stoney Creek, Hamilton, Oakville and Milton. They were officially established as a sister practice of the Community Midwives of Halton, which started in 1997 and includes 12 midwives who deliver around 400 babies a year.
The Womb is a separate resource for pregnant women, that provides doulas who offer non-clinical support in labour. Midwives will often work with doulas who come to the delivery. The Womb provides doulas who support families during pregnancy and birth as well as postnatal doula support, and both day and night support in the home after birth. Lorri Fleming, co-founder of The WOMB, which stands for World Of My Baby Inc., has been a birth and postnatal and parent educator for many years. “We help families get the information and support they need to make educated decisions for their birth and parenting journeys,” she says. That means providing tips on comfort measures including massage, relaxation and breathing techniques, position tips, hydrotherapy, heat/cold, TENS units, rebozzos (a large wrap garment) and more. “We help ease and reduce fears and increase the couples’ confidence. We find by easing the fear, tension and pain cycle, our clients experience a more positive birth experience.”
Travelling along the path to parenthood can be scary, overwhelming, and exciting. With the assistance and care offered by professionals like these, you can put some of your worries aside (and save them for when your kids reach their teenage years!).
by Denise Davy
The Womb, Burlington & Milton
Midwives of Halton