Midwife means “with woman”. A midwife is a specialist in normal pregnancy and birth. She works with other caregivers to provide families and their babies the best possible care during the childbearing year. In Alberta and around the world, midwives have excellent outcomes.
The midwifery scope of practice includes providing primary care to low risk clients and their newborns through pregnancy, birth and 6 weeks postpartum. Registered midwives have complete access to laboratories and diagnostic services; are able to prescribe and carry select medications, and consult or refer to other specialists when needed. Accordingly your midwife can order prenatal lab work, ultrasounds and prescribe certain pregnancy related medications. Hospital admitting privileges are available in most regions where midwives practice, or in most cases clients are able to choose to deliver in a birth centre or at home.
Clients under midwifery care do not see an obstetrician or family physician in addition to their midwife for pregnancy related care. Midwives are able to consult with these other providers when necessary and/or medically indicated. Midwives work as independent practitioners and can either work alone, with small groups of other midwives in a private practice, or within an alternative model.
Midwives in Alberta provide services in adherence with the Canadian Midwifery Model of Care as defined by the Canadian Association of Midwives. This model is admired worldwide and details seven principles that set midwifery apart from other forms of maternity care. These principles, briefly paraphrased below, are often cited as the benefits of choosing midwifery care.
Primary Health Care: Midwives are autonomous primary health care providers. Clients need not consult with additional maternity care providers during a normal non-complicated pregnancy.
Partnership: Midwives engage in a supportive partnership with clients throughout their care.
Continuity of Care: A client is cared for by a single midwife or small group of midwives. This provides continuity of care-provider, and fosters a relationship of familiarity and trust.
Informed Choice: Midwives offer informed choice and recognize the right of each person to be the primary decision maker about their care.
Birth Setting Choice: Midwives respect the clients right to choose where they will give birth and provide care to their clients in the setting of their choice.
Evidence-based: Midwifery practice is informed by research, evidence-based guidelines, clinical experience, and the unique values and needs of those in their care.
Collaborative: Midwives may work collaboratively within creative interdisciplinary models of practice with other healthcare professionals as needed.
In order to practice and be registered in Alberta, a midwife must apply to the College of Midwives of Alberta, which is the provincial regulatory body for the profession. After extensive review of qualifications, written and practical examinations, an eligible midwife may then register with the College of Midwives of Alberta.