Midwifery advocates call for more choice

For Megan Heckrodt, the decision to have a home birth with a midwife in attendance boils down to choice.

Birth choice: Megan Heckrodt holds her son Arlo immediately after his home birth

Birth choice: Megan Heckrodt holds her son Arlo immediately after his home birth

For Megan Heckrodt, the decision to have a home birth with a midwife in attendance boils down to choice.

Heckrodt gave birth to son Arlo earlier this month, in the Salmon Arm home she shares with husband Luke and her two older children, four-year-old Eden and two-year-old Will, who was also born at home with the care of a midwife.

She sought a different option of childbirth after delivering her daughter in a hospital setting in the United States.

“It was very clinical, medical and with a lot of interventions like induction. When we moved to B.C., I was thrilled to find out there was the option of a midwife and that it is covered by the BC medical plan. I jumped at the opportunity because I felt it would give me more choice in my maternity care and control of how my labour played out.”

Choice is the  key theme echoed by a group of women in Salmon Arm who are promoting midwifery care in the Salmon Arm area.

Spearheaded by Holly Malashewsky, a mother and birth doula, a petition has been started and a rally is being organized to demonstrate to health officials the desire for increased access to midwifery care in this area.

“Women have the right to choose where and with whom they give birth. Those that know, care and love them need to support and respect that,” says Malashewsky.

Registered midwives are recognized medical professionals, who specialize in healthy pregnancy and birth, and are an established part of the B.C. health-care system.

Midwives offer services from early pregnancy, through labour and birth, following up with care and breastfeeding support until approximately six weeks postpartum, at which point care reverts back to a family doctor.

“There seems to be a belief out there that there is no demand for midwifery services in Salmon Arm, but I know there is. As a doula and breastfeeding counsellor, I see many pregnant and new mothers who expressed an interest or desire for midwifery, but feel they have to choose another route because of the barriers in Salmon Arm.”

Malashewsky says one of these barriers is the need for more midwives to have hospital privileges at Shuswap Lake General Hospital. Currently only one midwife, Sylvia Nicholson, who is based in Vernon, has medical privileges at the local hospital. This means if a home-birth transfer to the hospital is necessary, Nicholson’s clients can be admitted by her and remain under her medical care in conjunction with physicians at the hospital.

Without privileges, midwives can not offer mothers the opportunity to have a midwife-assisted birth in a hospital setting, or if a transfer to hospital is needed, the midwife can no longer be involved in the medical care of their clients, and can only act in a supportive role for the mother.

Nicholson says the demand for midwifery services in Salmon Arm speaks for itself.

“All I can say is people call me from Salmon Arm at 12 weeks pregnant or less, and I’m not doing any marketing in the area at all, and I have to say ‘Sorry, I’m full.’”

Joanna Nemrava, a Kamloops-based midwife, will accept home birth clients from the Salmon Arm area, however, while she has hospital privileges at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, she does not have them at Shuswap Lake General. As with doctors, hospital privileges are granted at individual facilities, not across the province or the Interior Health region.

Heckrodt’s younger two children were both born at home with Nemrava in attendance. Heckrodt initially would have preferred the option to give birth in hospital with a midwife, but this option was not possible in Salmon Arm. In the end, she was deeply satisfied with having her babies at home with her midwife’s assistance.

“A home birth was not on my radar to start with, but afterwards I was blown away by the experience of being surrounded by my family and supports, in the comfort of my own home.”

Interior Health officials say there may be a perception of impediments to midwifery care at Shuswap Lake General Hospital, but it is more about a process of determining the needs and how to best meet them while keeping the safety of mothers and babies of the utmost importance.

Peter DuToit, area director of acute services for Interior Health, says accrediting midwives is the same process as with physicians. This includes a review by a committee composed of Interior Health administration and physicians, before going to the Interior Health board for approval.

DuToit notes the process is more complex when the care provider delivering the service is from out-of-town.

“Certainly our preference is to have someone who wants to live in the community be the one to provide the service… Right now we are not aware of anyone who wants to live in Salmon Arm and practise midwifery here.”

Both Nemrava and Nicholson agree that a midwife located directly in Salmon Arm would be the preferred option.

“Absolutely it would be best to have someone right in Salmon Arm, as with travel there are increased risk factors,” says Nemrava, who does not advertise in Salmon Arm or even hope to draw from this area.

“But I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if there was a woman here who was going to have an unattended home birth if I didn’t help out, so that is what has brought me to the area,” she says.

Nemrava was recently involved with a meeting with Interior Health to discuss the issue of privileges at Shuswap Lake General both on a short-term and longer- term basis.

She says there is interest from a UBC midwifery student possibly locating in Salmon Arm in a few years, which would allow for time to ensure the appropriate plans could be put in place.

“It went really well as an ongoing discussion. It was really positive and I feel like the issue is moving forward. From this last discussion, I have the sense that the tide is turning.”

Rally and petition drive

There is a public rally to show support for midwifery care at Shuswap Lake General Hospital being held on Saturday, Dec. 3 from noon to 2 p.m. at the plaza in front of Askew’s Foods on Lakeshore Dr.

All are welcome to come and show support.

A petition designed to demonstrate the desire for midwifery care options in Salmon Arm and calling for increased access to the option of Midwifery care at Shuswap Lake General Hospital is also underway.

There are petitions at the following locations in Salmon Arm: Growth Spurts – Gear for Kids, Snuggle Bugz Consignments, Dakshina Hot Yoga.

The petition can also be accessed online at http://www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/families-for-midwifery-care-in-the-shuswap/524.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A new public space build on a sediment deposit in the Sicamous Narrows is a possible part of a flood mitigation barrier outlined in a recent report given to Sicamous’ council. (Kerr Wood Leidal Image)
Sicamous flood protection plan, public walkway come with hefty price tag

New barrier against higher seasonal lake levels called a proactive approach by mayor

Movie crews filmed a holiday parade in Summerland in July. The parade, filmed on Main Street in Summerland, is for the movie, The Christmas Yule Blog. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

The Armstrong Green Space Society is calling for the preservation of the Royal York Golf Course, which may be in jeopardy pending an application to use the land for a major housing development. (File photo)
Armstrong group calls on council to spare local golf course from housing development

The Armstrong Green Space Society was formed in 2019 after word of the development surfaced

Vicki Proulx, executive director of the Vernon Winter Carnival Society, stands beneath a lights display the society lit up in Spirit Square Nov. 27, by way of announcing it will be taking over the 2021 downtown light-up event. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Vernon Winter Carnival Society lights up downtown square

The society announced it will be taking over next year’s downtown light-up event

Parents are urged to be on alert after a potential child abduction attempt took place near Armstrong Elementary School Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (amsas/neden photo)
Possible child abduction attempt at Armstrong Elementary School prompts warning

A letter from the school’s principal urges parents to be on high alert

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Richard Brodeur discussing his paintings with the executive director of the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan Kirsteen McCulloch. (Contributed)
Former Canucks goalie King Richard’s art displayed at Kelowna gallery

Richard Brodeur starred in the Vancouver Canucks’ 1982 Stanley Cup run

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A confirmed case of COVID-19 at Vernon’s Silver Star Elementary School has been reported. (Google Maps)
COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Member of Silver Star Elementary community in Vernon self-isolating at home; parents alerted Nov. 28

Real Canadian Superstore in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
Kelowna Superstore employee tests positive for COVID-19

The last day the employee worked was Nov. 23

Most Read