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NNSL Photo

Midwives Geoff Clark (left) and Helen Goodwin spend a few moments with Naomi Bourque before she and her newborn daughter leave the hospital. Clark provided prenatal care for Bourque and Goodwin delivered her baby under the supervision of a physician. - Merle Robillard/NNSL photo

Moms given choice

Hospital will have two registered midwives soon

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 18/03) - A decade of effort to make midwifery legal in the Northwest Territories is finally bearing fruit.

Two nurses at Stanton Regional Hospital are completing exams and will become the first registered midwives in Yellowknife this fall, just as the legislature is expected to pass a law that will make the profession legal here.

NNSL Photo

The Midwifery Profession Act for NWT

  • Bill 24 passed first and second reading in June and is expected to receive third and final reading when the legislative assembly resumes in September.
  • The act requires midwives to provide their own liability insurance to practice in territorial health facilities.
  • Midwives must operate in communities designated by the health minister.
  • Midwifery is currently regulated in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec.

  • Geoff Clark and Helen Goodwin were qualified practising midwives when they came to Yellowknife, knowing they would not be able to practice their career of choice.

    They came anyway, and assist at births at Stanton. Once legislation passes, Clark and Goodwin will be able to practice independently, prescribing medication and performing epidurals.

    Clark said that in his native Australia up to 80 per cent of births are delivered by midwives.

    The birth process shouldn't be a medical one, said Clark.

    "It's more emotional," he said, and requires a one-on-one relationship between the midwife and the woman.

    Doctors do a great job in the delivery room, he said, but midwives are involved pre-natally, through the birth, and well into the baby's life.

    Goodwin's Scottish homeland is permeated with midwives and requires nurses to first be schooled in midwifery.

    She has been at Stanton Territorial Hospital for more two years, but has been a midwife since 1984, in Scotland, Australia and most recently, the United States.

    Goodwin said that the legislation may make it possible for midwives to establish practices in remote communities that now send women to Yellowknife to have their babies.

    "Bringing women down at 36 weeks pregnant, they leave their husbands, children, and friends," Goodwin said.

    "Staying home and having a midwife is much preferable."