Celebrating 25 years of Midwifery in Thunder Bay

Local midwives, Lisa Bishop and Barbara Kemeny

This year (2019) marks 25 years of publicly funded midwifery and the restoration of Indigenous midwifery in Ontario. Midwives are primary care professionals who provide expert care for low-risk pregnancies and births and for the first six weeks postpartum.

In 1994, Barbara Kemeny was the only midwife practicing in Thunder Bay. Since then, she has watched midwifery significantly grow and expand to the current 14 practicing midwives working in a variety of capacities, all to the benefit of midwifery and families in Thunder Bay.

Midwives in Thunder Bay and Ontario work as part of inter-professional and collaborative care teams that provide well rounded care to women. In addition, many midwives also work in research fields.  “Midwife participation in research has influenced current obstetrical practices that have improved experiences for women, such as declining episiotomy rates, delayed cord clamping, and the safety of homebirth for low-risk women,” explains Kemeny.

Kemeny describes midwives as “stewards of client and family centred care”, a model that is rapidly being adopted by hospitals and various aspects of medicine and in which our Hospital is a leader.  This principle is entrenched in midwifery through the provision of informed choice, the decision-making process clients engage in with their midwives.  Informed choice involves sharing recommendations, including evidence-based practices, current research, and community standards, while respecting clients’ personal and cultural perspectives.  Informed choice ensures that the client is at the centre of care and is the primary decision maker.

The restoration of Indigenous midwifery is also being celebrated.  This year, the Indigenous Midwifery Summit was hosted in Thunder Bay, drawing Indigenous, and non-Indigenous midwives from all over the country to brainstorm the re-matriation of birth and its cultural meanings to remote Indigenous communities in Canada.

Locally, Dilico Anishnabek Family Care, located on Fort William First Nation, is home to one of the first six provincially funded Indigenous midwifery practices.  Indigenous Registered Midwife, Lisa Bishop, is part of their family health team and works in collaboration with obstetricians in Thunder Bay.  The practice focuses on bringing accessible care into the community through a variety of means, including home visiting.  “Providing outreach midwifery and individualized care on the ground to Indigenous women and families is an important part of my job, and an aspect that I really enjoy,” said Lisa Bishop.

As we celebrate this 25 year milestone in midwifery, Kemeny has recently retired.  “I feel humbled, thankful and honoured to have been a participant in the growth of midwifery in Thunder Bay,” she said. “I have always appreciated the medical professionals who welcomed midwives and continue to work with us.  As I am retiring from my full-time midwifery career, I wish all a healthy and respectful future which never loses the respect for the power, the principle of normalcy, and the miracle of birth.”