A midwife is a licensed professional who provides primary care to clients and their babies during pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period. As primary care providers, midwives may be the first point of entry to maternity services and are fully responsible for clinical decisions and the management of care within their scope of practice. A midwife completes a four-year university program that covers a wide variety of subjects related to midwifery, ethics, and clinical skills. After graduating, and before applying for registration with the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM), a national skill and ability exam must be completed.
In B.C., only midwives who are registered with BCCNM can call themselves “registered midwives.”
Midwives are experts in healthy pregnancy and birth.
The midwifery model of care promotes normal birth, enables clients to make informed choices, offers families the choice of birth place (in home or in hospital), and provides continuity of care and support throughout the childbearing experience. Midwives care for low-risk prenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal care. This care includes physical examinations, screening and diagnostic tests, the assessment of risk and abnormal conditions, and the conduct of normal vaginal deliveries. Midwives work in collaboration with other health professionals and consult with or refer to medical specialists as appropriate.
Registered midwives must renew their registration each year. They must ensure that they maintain certification in neonatal resuscitation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), fetal health surveillance and emergency skills. They must also maintain a certain level of practice to ensure continuing currency of their skills.
Your first visit with a midwife will usually be an intake assessment. You will get to know the midwife and the midwife will get to know you and determine if your pregnancy and birth will fall within their “normal” scope of practice and be eligible for midwifery care. If you and the midwife agree, you will book your first appointment. Midwives generally work in small groups and you may meet several midwives throughout your appointments. They will listen, observe, provide education, guide, and care for you. They may order and interpret tests. They will screen for physical, psychological, emotional, and social health. They will provide for all your pregnancy related health needs and if you have a health issue beyond their scope, you would see your family practitioner.
You do not need a referral to work with a midwife. A midwife may work in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics, or health units. You should contact a midwife as soon as you become pregnant. Practices can become full quickly depending on the community and practice volume. Visit the Midwives Association of BC Find a midwife page for a list of registered midwives by map, community, and/or name.
Midwifery care is free and covered by the Ministry of Health for B.C. residents with a valid Care Card through the Medical Services Plan (MSP). If you are not covered by the B.C. provincial health care plan you may choose to pay privately for midwifery services.
As a client you have the right to expect a professional standard of care from your midwife. If you are concerned that has not happened, you may want to make a complaint. Learn more