Vancouver Foundation supports research to improve access to midwifery care in BC

May 11 2017 3:26pm
A $160,000 grant from Vancouver Foundation and their donor partners will enable current and potential midwifery patients to work with the Women’s Health Research Institute team to explore the factors that impede or facilitate women’s access to midwifery services in British Columbia.

“Midwifery care has been shown to result in excellent maternal and newborn outcomes while reducing the use of costly interventions, but the factors that affect demand for and access to midwives in BC are unknown,” said Professor Saraswathi Vedam, project co-lead, UBC professor and registered midwife. “We’re very pleased the grant from Vancouver Foundation will enable us to work with women to develop sustainable solutions to maternity care access issues.”

Registered midwives are highly-educated and regulated professionals who provide quality prenatal, birth and post natal care, which is covered by the Province's Medical Services Plan. Midwives currently manage approximately 10% of births per year in BC and demand for midwifery services is increasing.

The research team includes maternity patients from across the province, representatives from the Midwives Association of BC, the UBC Division of Midwifery, Women in2 Healing, and the Immigrant Services Society of BC, and will welcome the participation of other interested community organizations on this exciting project.

Background and project goals

In 2012 the BC government allocated funds to expand admissions to UBC Midwifery and to build sustainable rural midwifery services. These policy changes were driven by maternity care provider shortages, and supported by the documented efficacy, patient satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness of midwifery care.

However, the use of midwives is not equally distributed across the BC population. It appears that patient experience, public awareness, and regional availability are all factors that may affect demand and access to midwifery care.

The objectives for this project emerged from two community consultations.  Women told us that they especially appreciate the emphasis on shared decision making in the midwifery model of care. Other midwifery clients felt stigmatized when their choices were perceived to be in conflict with the community standard of care. As a result interest in midwifery care may be modulated by family, community, and professional attitudes.

Community midwives described populations that are currently underserved by midwives, and suspected that multiple barriers to access exist for vulnerable women. Hence, our multi-stakeholder team (childbearing women, community service leaders and researchers) proposes that the overarching goal of our study is to identify factors that affect women’s access to the full spectrum of maternity care options.

Findings will inform a knowledge translation plan aimed at improving access to high quality maternity services, particularly among underserved and vulnerable women.



Vancouver Foundation helps build more vibrant and resilient communities in BC. They do this by harnessing the gifts of energy, ideas, time, and money from caring citizens to make meaningful and lasting impacts. With more than 1,500 funds, and assets of over $930 million, they are Canada’s largest community foundation. They’ve been investing in communities since 1943. Since that time, in partnership with it's donors, Vancouver Foundation has distributed more than $1 billion to innovative projects and programs throughout the province. To find out more visit:


BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre (BC Women’s) focuses its research, teaching and care on women's health and the health of their families. This focus has enabled BC Women’s to create specialized and one-of-a-kind programs designed to meet the health needs of women and their families. BC Women's Foundation raises funds to support the hospital’s role as a national leader in women’s health.  For more information, please visit


The WHRI, based at BC Women’s Hospital, aims to create new knowledge and evidence-based solutions that inform and transform the health and health care of all women. The WHRI has a local and provincial mandate to support women’s health research at BC Women’s and throughout the province of BC. For more information about the support that we provide, please visit


The MABC educates the public about midwifery care while supporting the growing number of midwives across the province. Registered midwives are experts in normal birth, with extensive education that focuses on pregnancy, birth and the postpartum for both mom and baby. Midwives are a safe and recognized choice for maternity care in BC, across Canada and around the world. For more information, please visit


Established in 2002, the Division of Midwifery within the UBC Faculty of Medicine offers a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Midwifery degree. As the only academic center for midwifery research, education and practice in British Columbia, faculty have a mandate to evaluate the impact of midwifery practice in the province, appropriate health human resource allocation, as well as midwifery contributions to global maternity health care. The research program and team are funded by various institutes  and UBC Midwifery faculty collaborate with academic and community-based researchers, policy makers, administrators and other key stakeholders including women and families across Canada and international jurisdictions.  For more information about the Midwifery Program or our research activities, visit:


Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC)

Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) is the oldest immigrant serving agency in BC. With a mandate to help immigrants build a future in Canada, ISSofBC pioneered what is now commonly referred to as “settlement services” in BC. This is done through the provision of a wide range of programs and services that assist new immigrants and refugees through their adaptation, settlement and integration phase. For more information about the work that we do, please visit

Women in2 Healing (Wi2H)

Women in2 Healing (Wi2H) is a not-for-profit group of formerly incarcerated women, volunteers and academics who seek to improve the physical, emotional, social and physical healing of women inside and outside of prison by engaging in participatory research processes. Wi2H is a participatory action research network of Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI), of BC Women’s Hospital. To see more about what we do, visit:

For more information:

Karen Gelb, Research Manager
University of British Columbia Division of Midwifery

Aimee Nygaard, Development + Research Coordinator
BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre Foundation 
(604) 875-2424 ext 6410