March 15th, 2023

Increasing midwifery services would help with primary care crisis

HALIFAX – While thousands of Nova Scotians are without primary care, little has been done to improve midwifery services. Increasing the number of midwives would help people access prenatal, postpartum, reproductive, and newborn care and take pressure off other primary care providers.

A recent Freedom of Information Request shows that in June 2022 the health department was on the verge of approving a midwifery education program feasibility study supported by the governments of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and PEI when the Houston government squashed the process.

“The lack of a midwifery education program in Atlantic Canada is one of the main factors affecting recruitment and retention of midwives in the region. When people have to travel across the country for education there’s no guarantee that they’ll return to the region or be able to find work in the limited system we have here,” said Jessica MacDonald, President of the Association of Nova Scotia Midwives. “We know families are looking for midwifery care and if more people were trained here and hired to work in the region we would be able to help more people during pregnancy, as well as provide increased access to well newborn care, and provide reproductive care to Nova Scotians who are in great need of these services.”

There are 16 midwifery positions in Nova Scotia, limited to HRM, the South Shore, and Antigonish. Demand is high for those that are working in the field and there are entire regions of the province with no service.

“There are thousands of Nova Scotians without a family doctor or primary care. For those who are pregnant or thinking about having children, that's especially stressful,” said NDP MLA Suzy Hansen. “If the Houston government made the investments in education and in expanding the midwifery program we could address part of the primary care crisis for those that need prenatal care.”

Midwifery services were expanded in 2011 by the NDP government with a plan to have 20 midwives working province-wide by 2017. The Liberal government only added positions to existing programs in HRM, Antigonish, and Lunenburg following public outcry and the suspension of services in some areas. The number of midwives in Nova Scotia has remained stagnant since 2019.