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Midwifery supporters gathering for more protests

RN Danielle Macdonald.
RN Danielle Macdonald. - Submitted

KENTVILLE, NS – More than 670 babies were born at Valley Regional Hospital last year because there are no midwifery services in the Valley.

Women in the region have long been calling for the return of midwives.

Burnout was cited as the cause earlier this month for the suspension of the South Shore’s midwifery program, which Kentville doula Dawn Hare says Valley women have been travelling to access.

A member of the Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia, which was formed more than 30 years ago, Hare lamented the long period of advocacy and concerted campaigning to increase the number of midwifery sites.

More than two years ago when then health minister Leo Glavine was asked about using midwifery expertise to make up for a lack of obstetrician/gynecologists in Kentville, he said the collaborative model was, “begging to be implemented here in the Valley. It will take time and expertise, but I would like to see a robust provincial plan. I am hoping it won’t be too long before here is the next place we introduce midwives.”

Danielle Macdonald, a nurse doing her Ph’D in the field, says, “people are really incensed. There is a serious movement afoot. You can see it on social media.”

A protest in Bridgewater on Jan. 22 focused 100 people on Liberal MLA Mark Furey and Macdonald says other rallies are planned for Liverpool and Halifax.

“A great many of us are going to be making a lot of noise,” she stated. “This is very disappointing. From the gender perspective, the federal government backs midwifery, it needs to be echoed at the provincial level.”

According to Macdonald, both New Brunswick and Newfoundland are about to launch midwifery programs. “We’re not a leader in Nova Scotia,” she said. “What we need is a sustainable midwifery program, especially in rural areas.”

An external assessment report, completed in 2011 for the provincial government, recommended 20 full-time positions with added sites in the Valley and Cape Breton by the end of 2017, Macdonald noted.

As a nurse, she has cared for too many mothers and babies to count, but mentions her sister Zoe’s away from home deliveries, as noteworthy. A midwife attended her first birth in 2009 when she went to Ontario and the Valley resident had to go to Halifax for the birth of her second child in order to be under the care of a midwife.

“Every woman should have a choice. For safety and comfort, midwifery births are an excellent choice. We have the scientific evidence to know that.”

Hare finds it interesting that the government acted so quickly on a report to break up the province’s school boards, but seven years of excellent midwifery service has not resulted in any expansion.

Midwives also operate out of Antigonish and Halifax, but Hare fears the burnout will spread to Antigonish after attending a meeting of the Midwifery Coalition last week. She is eager to know how many Valley women were unable to seek a birth with a midwife attending.

If any moms would like to reach out, Hare suggested the Valley Families for Midwifery Facebook page:

RN Danielle Macdonald studying two kindred spirits

As a registered nurse Danielle Macdonald wants to forge bonds between her chosen profession and midwives. In her heart she views the two roles as kindred spirits.

The Kings County native has been interested in the birth process since she was in high school. Now in her mid-30s, Macdonald recalls shadowing nurse-midwife Charlene MacLellan as part of a co-op course she took in high school.

“At that time midwifery was legal in Nova Scotia and women (and their families) had access to midwifery in the Valley. We lost this access with regulation in 2009 and it is so important for us to continue to raise the issue of inequitable access to midwifery services for women in Nova Scotia.”

Macdonald’s academic trajectory into nursing research demonstrates her commitment to the issue. Currently she is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa School of Nursing where her research explores collaboration between midwives and nurses in Nova Scotia.

Her work is taking a close look at the role of midwives and nurses at the three sites in the province, where midwives are employed. She is also looking at the status of midwives in other provinces.

Nationally it’s a mosaic, Macdonald says, adding that she believes Nova Scotia-born midwives are likely to return to the province if the service is expanded.

Having returned to the Valley midway through her degree process, Macdonald was excited to see momentum growing toward an expansion across the province and now she has deep concerns. She believes we need to be socialized to a philosophy of care for low-risk births that is more women and family-centred.

Nova Scotia’s aging population has absorbed much of the health-care attention, she observes, but improving reproductive and family health care is important holistically.

Macdonald used to do postpartum nursing at Valley Regional Hospital.

“I loved it. At 2 a.m. you were there to support and listen to a new mom where the baby wasn’t latching on.”

Proud that federal funds have just been set aside for midwifery at First Nations communities, Macdonald wants to see an expansion, not a retraction, of midwifery services provincially.

She has also been to Tanzania three times as a nurse. Macdonald was involved there in a research project that explored the experiences of nurse-midwives and obstetricians providing postpartum care.

“Our first two articles with the findings from that study have been accepted for publication in academic journals. My experience in Tanzania has been more focused on maternal-newborn health research than on clinical support.”

She has been speaking about these experiences at conferences.

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