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Call the midwife

School of Nursing professor helps deliver provincial regulations

By Marcia Porter

It’s the name of a popular BBC dramatic series, and thanks to the persistence of dedicated women and faculty members in the School of Nursing, Call the Midwife will soon become a real-life choice for expectant mothers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The provincial government recently announced new regulations for midwifery; the practice will be officially recognized as a health-care profession on Sept. 30—regulations that have been 30 years in the making.

Right to choose

“We were all very pleased and proud at what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Prof. Ann Noseworthy, president of the Association of Midwives of Newfoundland and Labrador. “We have been working for a number of years to achieve the regulation of midwives so that women can choose a midwife to provide all their care, providing they have low-risk pregnancies.”

Ann with Minister Haggie
Prof. Ann Noseworthy, second from left, with Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie (third from left) and members of the Association of Midwives of N.L.

The new regulations are a first step, however, and will require an implementation plan before midwives can be integrated into the health care-system.

Cross-Canada access

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the last jurisdictions in the country to establish a system for the provision of regulated midwifery care.

“When I did nursing here at Memorial’s School of Nursing, the first birth that I experienced as a nursing student was like an epiphany and I thought, ‘This is what I want to do,’” said Prof. Noseworthy.

Prof. Noseworthy has been a registered midwife since 1991, practising in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and teaching midwifery in New Zealand for almost 20 years.

“I’ve seen how effective a midwife’s care is.” —Prof. Ann Noseworthy

She returned to her hometown of St. John’s a few years ago and immediately set about trying to bring forward regulations for midwifery care.

‘Empowering for women and their families’

“I’ve seen how effective a midwife’s care is,” said Prof. Noseworthy, “You establish strong relationships with your clients. A midwife will follow the client through the whole experience. You become part of the family and that can be very empowering for women and their families.”

In areas where midwifery is practised, research shows there are many positive outcomes, including cost-effectiveness, fewer medical procedures like episiotomies, cesarean sections and less use of pain medication.

Traditional practice

Historically, midwives practised in Newfoundland and Labrador, but fell out of favour in the 1960s.

Prof. Noseworthy can’t say why midwives’ status changed, but she believes it is the influx of women and their families from other parts of Canada and other countries that helped encourage the provincial government to introduce new regulations.

She’s hopeful the gap between official recognition and integration of midwives into the health-care system won’t be a lengthy one and credits the hard work of many colleagues over the years, including retired School of Nursing faculty members Dr. Kay Matthews and Pearl Herbert, with bringing the new regulations to fruition.

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