Alberta Lacks Basic Maternity Care Funding

Wednesday, December 14 2011

Edmonton, AB (November 28, 2005) Alberta is now one of only two major provinces in Canada that do not provide funding for basic maternity care offered by legal and registered midwives. The other province currently without funding is Saskatchewan.

Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories have all legalized and funded the profession. Alberta lacks basic maternity care funding because Alberta midwifery consumers must pay for the service others in Canada get for free.

Saskatchewan is the only Western Canadian province that has failed to legalize the profession of midwifery. Fortunately its NDP government announced earlier this month that legalization will happen, perhaps by the spring of 2006 The Saskatchewan government has said it will be funding midwifery and is now determining how it will provide the funding.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted the impact midwifery care has on improving infant mortality and reducing cesarean birth rates. WHO also recommends the training of more professional midwives, as they are the appropriate care providers for normal pregnancy and birth. At any one time, midwives catch 75 percent of the babies born in the world.

Midwives in Canada currently deliver in the range of 3,300 to 33,000 of the babies born every year, and that number is expected to grow quickly.

Canada is currently experiencing a maternity care crisis. Research indicates that the number of doctors training to become obstetricians is declining, and the number of family doctors that are willing to do attend births is also declining. Midwives can help address this upcoming shortage.

Last year approximately 600-700 Albertan families had a midwife for their pregnancy, birth and postpartum care. This amount would undoubtedly grow if families didn't have to pay up to $2,800 out-of-pocket for midwifery services. A Canadian Medical Association survey conservatively estimates that 20% of Canadian women would be interested in having midwifery care if these services were made more accessible. Childbirth consumer groups such as the Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) in Edmonton have met with Alberta Health and Wellness Minister, Iris Evans, with invoices from Albertans who paid for midwifery care out-of-pocket. Unfortunately, the Minister has not committed to pushing for midwifery funding in Alberta.

For additional information, please contact:

Tracy Kennedy, ASAC President (780) 474-2450 Christy Parker, ASAC Publicity Coordinator (780) 428-0986 Box 1197 Phone: (780) 425 -7993 Main P.O. Fax: (780) 497-7576 Edmonton, AB Email: T5J 2M4 Website:

Midwifery in Alberta Backgrounder

Edmonton, AB November 28, 2005 - The Association for Safe Alternatives in Childbirth (ASAC) collected invoices from all Albertans who paid out-of-pocket for midwifery care from 1991 on. These invoices were presented to Alberta Health and Wellness Minister, Iris Evans, on May 5th, the International Day of the Midwife, along with a cost comparison analysis demonstrating that a publicly funded midwifery model of care would mean millions in long and short term savings for Alberta's health care system.

ASAC has been actively lobbying the government for regulation of midwifery, public funding of the service, and the establishment of a midwifery education program for 25 years. In 1991, the Health Disciplines Board recommended the regulation and public funding of midwifery care as well as the development of a Baccalaureate of Midwifery program. Midwives have now been regulated since 1998, but the other two parts of the equation have not materialized.

"We would like to see consumers and midwives consulted by government in the development of a funding model that insures midwifery care through the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) either fully, like physicians, or partially, like chiropractors. Any funding model should respect midwives' professional autonomy and scope of practice as well as the midwifery philosophy and principles of care. Also, establishing a midwifery education program in Alberta will help sustain the profession," Tracy Kennedy, RN, mother of three (all born under midwifery care) and President of ASAC (You may contact her at (780) 474-2450), states.

The number of midwives in Alberta has decreased (midwives are moving to provinces where midwifery is funded and because there is no education program in Alberta), the cost for care has increased (midwives have no choice but to pass on the increased costs associated with regulation to the consumer), and demand for midwifery services continues to rise (approximately 600 women hired midwives for their births in Alberta last year). These conditions are resulting in even more limited access to midwifery care for Alberta families.

Including midwifery as an insured service will contribute to better care for pregnant women and save the health care system money:

  1. Midwifery care is safe. Research evidence shows that primary care by midwives is as safe as or safer than care by physicians, in hospital or at home. Studies have been done in Alberta, Canada, and internationally, and not one has shown poorer outcomes with midwifery care. The Alberta government itself committed $400,000 to an Alberta study- the Implementation of Midwifery Services Evaluation Project (IMSPEP) - for which it has yet to release the results. "In the Netherlands, Japan and Norway over 75% of births are attended by midwives, either at home or in the hospital, and these countries have some of the lowest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. They also have some of the most cost effective publicly funded health care systems," says Karen Mykietka, mother of two born at home with midwives and ASAC's past Vice-President (You may contact her at (780) 479-4812).
  2. 2. Midwifery care is comprehensive. Midwives offer community- based care throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and for six weeks post-partum, including well-woman gynaecological and maternity care, pre & postnatal education, breastfeeding support and newborn care.

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