How Has Midwifery Evolved?

August 20, 2021

When people hear the term ‘midwife’ some tend to picture women in colonial times, holding a new mother’s hand, offering support and words of encouragement as they wipe away sweat and tears.

This isn’t entirely inaccurate.

Midwifery has a long, rich history dating back to medieval times. The earliest noted training programs for midwives were established sometime in the 17th century in the Netherlands. As the world opened up and colonization took place, midwifery skills were carried across the oceans, with cultural practices being shared and passed down.

Particularly in the American colonies, midwifery thrived. Indigenous cultures had their own midwifery traditions, as did African women who came as slaves, and these skills became vital as the population grew. There were few doctors and even fewer who were close enough to attend a birth or even willing to if the family was poor.  But there were plenty of women who had the opportunity to learn about midwifery. Mainly, for this reason, it wasn’t practical to outlaw midwifery, but laws surrounding it were practically non-existent and midwifery was largely unregulated for quite some time.

In Canada, history was made in 1994 when, after years of being the only developed nation in the world without a system of midwifery regulation, The Midwifery Act was passed in Ontario. Many provinces followed suit, and today Prince Edward Island and the Yukon are the only two provinces and territories without midwifery regulation, although that appears to be on the verge of changing.

Click here to read more about quality midwives in Richmond.

So, is midwifery an outdated practice?

Absolutely not. Midwifery might have started in the Middle Ages, but as medicine has progressed, midwifery practices have modernized right alongside it. There are many clinics providing the services of midwives in Richmond and the greater Vancouver area.

What exactly does it take to become a midwife?

Midwives must be able to adapt quickly and calmly to the rapidly changing circumstances that go along with childbirth. Every birth is unique, and even the most well-thought-out birth plan will undoubtedly run into a bump or two, and a midwife must keep her cool and make decisions as needed.

A midwife is a near-constant presence in an expectant mother’s journey. She must have patience, compassion, and sensitivity in spades.

From the medical standpoint, a midwife goes through a 4-year degree program to become certified and will go through continuing education throughout her career.

Midwives need to know the ins and outs of prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care and understand everything there is to know in the most complex of situations associated with pregnancy.

How can including a midwife in your birth plan add to your experience?

You will see your midwife more often than you see your doctor, typically once a month for the first 28 weeks of your pregnancy. After that, visits might increase to once every two weeks until you reach 36 weeks, then once every week until you give birth.

A midwife will generally block off up to 45 minutes for your appointment, giving you plenty of time to ask questions and hear about your options, allowing you to leave your appointment with peace of mind.  In addition, a midwife can visit you in your home, eliminating distractions and adding a nice personal touch to your care.

Many women also appreciate the option to give birth at home with the assistance of a midwife. Giving birth at home is more likely to result in a stress-free delivery and a calm transition from womb to world for baby. Of course, if you’d rather give birth in a hospital (or your pregnancy is complicated by health concerns) a midwife will accompany you.

So, is it time to start looking for a midwife?

If you’re not yet convinced of the benefit of including a midwife in your birth plan, click here to find out more about Downtown Midwifery Practice or to find midwives in Richmond, and rest assured that you’re as prepared as you can be for your journey into motherhood.


Phone: (778) 990-0300

Call now


406- 1200 Burrard Street
Vancouver BC, V6Z 2C7

Get directions