Rebirth of Midwives

The guardians of low-risk childbirth, modern midwives at BC Women’s are guiding moms through pregnancy, labour and delivery

In 30 years of delivering babies, midwife Linda Knox has experienced hundreds of happy moments, although not all have involved the arrival of a healthy newborn. For Knox, seeing midwifery become a licensed, regulated part of the BC medical system in 1998 remains a highlight of her professional life: “Until then, other
than a small pilot project here at BC Women’s, midwifery just didn’t exist, except for outside of the system.”

BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, the provincial referral centre for high-risk maternity patients, is also a national leader in supporting the role of midwives in obstetrics. In fact, 15 years ago, BC Women’s became the first hospital in BC to fully integrate midwives into its maternity care program.

Primary obstetric care

“We [midwives] think of ourselves as the guardians of normal childbirth,” explains Knox, head of the Department of Midwifery at BC Women’s, adding that many women are still unaware that midwifery services are covered by MSP, that midwives have hospital privileges and that they can prescribe medications.

BC Women’s midwives currently provide primary obstetric care to more than 2,000 expectant moms a year, both in the hospital and at home. At BC Women’s, they also participate on maternity-related committees, research teams and special projects. “That’s been the biggest gift in being regulated,” says Knox. “It’s made it possible for midwives to be part of the maternity healthcare team.”

In fact, midwives from BC Women’s are currently engaged in a major study, facilitated by a $160,000 grant from Vancouver Foundation and their donor partners, to study ways to improve access to midwifery services in BC.

Modern model

A clinical assistant professor with the Division of Midwifery in the Department of Family Practice at UBC, Knox is also involved in the training of new midwives, as well as in helping to grow the profession and promote normal labour and birth.

As for BC Women’s, it plays a significant role as guardian of the profession as it continues to take the lead in promoting, defining and supporting a modern model of midwifery care for women.

Written for WOMEN'S magazine by Nancy Grantham
Photography by Ian Durning