Cambridge Bay celebrates birth, closer to home
“Choice is important for women”
There’s nothing like a big birthday party to put smiles on faces.
Cambridge Bay’s midwives invited everyone to the Luke Novoligak community centre March 18 to celebrate the return of birthing to their community.
And this party turned out to be huge.
About 300 people of all ages — including some of the first women to give birth at the Kitikmeot health centre in Cambridge Bay— came to the bash, which included a giant birthday cake.
“When you bring back birth to the community, you bring back life,” says one of Cambridge Bay’s midwives, Anessa Maize, recalling an elder’s statement about the importance of giving birth close to home.
Since the beginning of 2010, four women have given birth at the $20-million Kitikmeot health centre, which was fully equipped to handle births when opened in the fall of 2005.
But the centre only started offering prenatal and maternal care to pregnant women last autumn and opened its in-house birthing room at the end of this past January.
Even before midwives officially started to perform deliveries, two babies, both slightly pre-term, were born at the centre with midwives.
Usually these women would have been sent south to Yellowknife to give birth, says Maize — or at the very least the mothers and their newborn babies would have been shipped off to Yellowknife immediately for post-natal care.
But, in these cases, there was no time, and the women were able to deliver safely at the centre, without complications, and head home about eight hours later with their babies.
The unexpected deliveries by the midwives also saved the Government of Nunavut a lot of money for medevacs, Maize says.
Women who deliver at term with midwives in Cambridge Bay can usually expect to spend four hours at the centre before going home — in contrast with the many weeks that pregnant women spend in Yellowknife or Edmonton.
And they’ll also know the midwives who deliver their babies.
Midwives now provide about 40 pregnant women in Cambridge Bay with prenatal care.
Of these, about 75 per cent could give birth in the community, Maize says.
Screening to determine who could deliver with midwives at the centre usually takes place at during the last month of pregnancy.
Eligible pregnant women can then choose whether they want to give birth in Cambridge Bay.
“Choice [about birth] is important for women,” says Maize.
But for many women there’s no reason not to opt for a midwife-attended birth.
Statistics from Rankin Inlet, where up to 60 babies are born under midwives’ care every year, show its midwifery-delivered care is safe.
Since the birthing room opened in Cambridge Bay, a total of four women have given birth under the care of Cambridge Bay’s midwives, who all have 20 to 25 years of experience delivering babies.
Nurses, and often a physician, are also on hand. And in case of an emergency, a medevac is available 24-7.
Maize acknowledges the biggest hurdle to developing midwifery in Cambridge Bay is hesitancy among women to use the service because it’s been a couple of generations since they have been able to give birth closer to home.
Expectant mothers need to believe that delivering in Cambridge Bay is “okay, after being told for years it’s not okay,” Maize says.
Many also chose to go out of Cambridge Bay because they want to shop for their newborn in the South where it’s cheaper to buy what they need.
Setting up a purchasing group where women could buy more cheaply together is one idea that could lower costs of diapers and other supplies, Maize says.
There are also plans to expand midwifery to women in other Kitikmeot communities. Eventually, a third midwife would join the regular team, so that one midwife would be able to travel outside Cambridge Bay.
For now, there are four midwives, who work in teams of two in three-month rotations at the centre.
This schedule means that midwife Sharyne Fraser, who stayed in Cambridge Bay from September through December, is now back in the community where she’ll pick up the care of women she already knows.
“That’s important. That’s part of the model of care, that we establish a relationship,” Maize says.
As the midwifery program evolves, the midwives also want to develop post-natal care for mothers and babies as part of their practice.
And the midwives will be involved in a midwifery training program to offered through Nunavut Arctic College in Cambridge Bay.
The program involves a four-level BA degree program.
After successful completion of the program’s first level, students will receive a maternity care worker certificate.
After successful completion of the third year, they will receive a diploma in midwifery, write the Canadian midwifery registration exam and work towards completing the required skills and numbers of birth to qualify for registration as a midwife.
The student can then choose to begin a one-year supervised practice or enter a fourth year to complete a BA.