PEI Health Minister Hon. Chester Gillian is reported as suggesting that “there just isn’t enough demand to bring midwives into the health-care system” in Prince Edward Island and that “It would be adding another service to one that is already provided.” This in reaction to news that Nova Scotia will soon introduce legislation to regulate midwifery there.
There may be valid reasons for keeping midwives out of the province — I don’t know of any, but I’m open to hearing them — but Gillan’s logic is simpleminded.
I spent five years in the midwifery milieu in Ontario. I have several friends who are fully-healthcare-funded professional midwives in Ontario, and several other friends here in PEI who, given the chance, would likely work for similar qualifications. I spent 3 months in El Paso, Texas while a friend was training to be a midwife, and I learned more about preeclampsia and forceps than you can possibly imagine. Many of our friends have children who have come into the world with a midwife guiding the way. In short, I’ve seen midwifery up close as a valid and important part of childbirth, and I’ve seen how midwives can work hand-in-hand with doctors and nurses as part of the healthcare system.
I’m certain we would have profited from the services of a midwife if we’d had the option — certainly having Sylvie Arsenault as our doula was an invaluable resource before and during Oliver’s birth.
But apparently, according to Minister Gillan, “there just isn’t enough demand.” How does he know this? And, indeed, how can one gauge demand for a practice that has not existed in PEI for several generations. Midwifery is an important and valued art around the world; indeed at one point it was a valued and important art in Prince Edward Island. Just because childbirth has, in recent decades, been centralized and hospitalized and taken over by physicians, is no reason to think that, with promotion and education and funding there might not be incredible demand for the service.
And Mr. Gillan’s assertion that midwifery would represent “adding another service to one that is already provided.” Leaving out the fact that midwifery-attended births, whether in hospital or at home, can be entirely different from operating room hospital births (where birth seems to be treated more as a “condition” than an important life event), Mr. Gillian is correct in this assertion. So what? Why not give Islanders more birthcare options? Why not work to enrich the variety of services available to prospective parents?
I have no doubt that introducing midwifery legislation and funding in Prince Edward Island would improve the lives of Islanders and Islanders-to-be. It is simply irresponsible not to at least open ourselves to this potential because there’s “no demand” or because “that whole birthing thing’s already being taken care of.”