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20 years of midwifery in BC

Midwifery is an ancient practice that’s been around for a long time, but due to limited written documentation, it’s difficult to trace exactly how far back midwives assisted in births throughout history.
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​It was only 20 years ago, on January 1, 1998, when the BC government passed regulation that legally recognized midwives as autonomous health care practitioners. 

BC Women’s began a pilot midwifery program in 1982, when the hospital was known as Grace Hospital. The program started with a group of registered nurses that had a midwifery background from another country with the support of obstetricians. The program progressed over the years and eventually employed six to eight midwives working alongside supervising family practice doctors just prior to when the midwifery regulation was passed.

The implementation of regulated midwifery in BC had been a long time in the making with families and practitioners advocating for its regulated practice for many years. BC Women’s is proud to be the first hospital in the province to have a midwife legally deliver the first baby without an attending doctor. 

Camille Bush became a part of BC’s midwifery and BC Women’s history, as the first midwife under the new regulation to deliver the first baby whom was also Vancouver’s New Year’s baby of 1998. 

“For me personally, it was a profound privilege to be the assisting hands for the first regulated midwifery birth in BC,” says Camille. 

“At the time, I was preoccupied with providing the necessary care to mother and baby, the significance of the moment almost escaped me; now 20 years later, it has assumed its more proper place as perhaps one of the pivotal moments in the story of BC midwifery.”

Little did Camille know, Benedicte Schioetz had such a memorable experience as a BC Women’s patient, especially the postpartum care provided by Camille and the midwifery group, that it went on to shape her future. Benedicte wasn’t a stranger to midwifery care; both of her eldest children were delivered by a midwife. Originally from Norway, midwives were part of the standard of care and naturally, it made sense for Benedicte to be cared for by midwives, but when she and her husband settled in Canada, he was the one who sought out midwifery care as it wasn’t the norm here.

What stood out for Benedicte was the difference in care throughout all three of her pregnancies. Postnatal care wasn’t part of her first two pregnancies and midwives weren’t involved in the prenatal care that she received in neither Norway nor Ottawa, where both her first two children were born. In contrast, midwives were involved in both prenatal and postpartum care through BC Women’s. What she found to be most special was that she had three midwives with her in the room during the delivery of her youngest child; as they wanted to be there to witness Camille deliver the first official baby. 

Benedicte experienced her first home visit with a midwife and found the postpartum care that she received truly inspiring, and thought ‘what a neat job this would be.' 

Years later, Benedicte went through a divorce and found that she needed to pursue a career to help support her and her children. That’s when she remembered the care she received and felt that it would be her calling and she went through the steps to apply to become a midwife. The midwifery program had limited spots and competition was high. Unfortunately, Benedicte received the news that she didn’t make it into the program. Having to be a resourceful single mother, Benedicte decided to take a slightly different route and applied to become a nurse. She now works as a nurse in Labour and Delivery, not too far removed from her initial plan of becoming a midwife. To this day, Benedicte and Camille still have a special bond and run into each other now and again. 

BC Women’s and the team behind the midwifery program played a significant role in helping advance midwifery as a recognized profession that is important in maternal care. Today, midwives are a normalized option for expectant growing families as part of their care provider team for prenatal and antepartum care. 

Reunion photo: Benedicte Schioetz, Linnea Teichroeb, Camille Bush.

New mom looking for prenatal care? Find a maternity care provider or midwife here.

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; pregnancy; Patient story; maternal health
Women's Health; Children's Health
SOURCE: 20 years of midwifery in BC ( )
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