Frustration over lack of midwives in Sask despite high demand

REGINA – More and more mothers-to-be are upset with the lack of access to a midwife in Saskatchewan.

Fifteen positions are funded in the province, but there’s a long wait list to receive care and it’s difficult to justify spending more money when some spots sit vacant.

Midwives provide primary care to women throughout their pregnancy, birth and six weeks postpartum.

Crystal Palmer is a new mom and said as soon as she found out she was pregnant, she sought out a midwife.

“I wanted to feel comfortable like I knew the person and trusted the person during the delivery,” she explained.  “I also wanted the option of a home birth.”

However, the wait-list exceeded her nine-month pregnancy. Palmer was never assigned a midwife, and ended up delivering in a hospital with a doctor.

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“This obstetrician could have been able to help a woman who maybe had issues or who would have needed her expertise a lot more than somebody like me,” she added.

Three of 13 health regions offer midwifery services and according to the organizer of the Where’s My Midwife? Saskatchewan campaign, waitlists are extremely long.

“We have a lot of rural communities and a lot of aboriginal communities, and those tend to be the communities the most underserved,” said Julian Wotherspoon.

In the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, three of five positions have sat vacant for several months.

The director of the midwifery program, Laveena Tratch, said they can’t always accommodate everyone on the wait list, but have accommodated all home births for women with low risk pregnancies.

“On a yearly basis, the number of woman we’d be unable to serve would be less than 100,” she added.

Wotherspoon said there’s an appetite, but no money, for a training program within Saskatchewan which she thinks would help retain midwives.

The province provides $2.2 million a year to midwifery services and according to the Minister of Health, Dustin Duncan, the resolution isn’t as simple as just increasing funding.

“It is an in demand profession in a lot of provinces, and right now the demand for the services across the country is outstripping the supply of midwives.”

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Saskatchewan’s midwifery program has been in operation since 2008.

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