The B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives says it’s received multiple reports of tragic outcomes, including death, from British Columbians who chose to hire an unauthorized person to assist with their baby’s birth.
In the last year and a half, the regulatory college says it’s had 13 reports of incidents involving unregistered midwifery providers. In many cases, the college says, the baby or pregnant person was reportedly harmed and, in some, the baby died.
The college issued a public advisory on Monday (Nov. 6) to draw attention to those risks.
In B.C., people who want to practise as midwives have to complete a four-year undergraduate program and pass Canadian and provincial examinations. They then must register with the College of Nurses and Midwives.
Only those individuals are technically allowed to call themselves midwives or offer birthing services, but the college says it’s aware of people operating outside of its oversight. Those unauthorized individuals commonly advertise themselves as “midwives,” “birth attendants,” “birth keepers” or “traditional midwifes,” the college says.
“These individuals do not have the same training, experience, and access to life-saving medications and equipment as midwives, nor integration with hospitals for emergency care if needed, resulting in significant risks to the health and safety of birthing persons and their babies.”
If something does go wrong with an unauthorized provider, the college says there is also no path for recourse. Those individuals don’t operate under a regulatory college, so there is no one to file complaints to. They also don’t carry malpractice insurance, meaning people can’t recover damages from them if they take them to court.
The college says people who are allowed to operate outside of its framework are doulas. Unlike midwives, doulas can’t provide clinical care, such as checking cervical dilation or delivering a baby. Their job, rather, is to provide emotional and physical support during someone’s birthing experience. Doulas often work in tandem with midwives.
The college says pregnant people can easily check whether someone is an authorized midwife by searching for them on the regulator’s online registry. There are 387 authorized and practising midwives in B.C.