Midwifery in Ontario

What is a midwife?

Midwife means "with woman". To midwives and their clients, pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy life events. Midwifery promotes normal childbirth and the prevention of health problems. In 1994, midwifery became an integrated part of the Ontario healthcare system and is provided free of charge to residents of the province. Midwives offer clients the option of delivering at hospital, home or one of two birth centres (Toronto and Ottawa).

A midwife is a primary care provider who is responsible for all the care necessary for a healthy expectant person and the baby throughout pregnancy, birth and for six weeks afterward. Midwives refer clients and newborns to family doctors or specialist doctors like obstetricians and pediatricians if the care becomes complicated. Even if care is transferred to a doctor at the birth, midwives will remain involved in the care as a support to the client and baby.

As primary care providers, midwives do the following:

  • care for healthy, pregnant persons and their babies;
  • see clients for all prenatal visits and give prenatal education;
  • order laboratory and ultrasound testing if needed;
  • arrange for consultations with or transfers to doctors if needed;
  • give some medications during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postpartum (after birth) period if needed;
  • take responsibility for primary care during labour, birth and postpartum including delivering the baby;
  • examine the newborn and care for clients and babies for six weeks after the birth.

You do not need a referral from a physician to use midwifery services; you can call a midwife directly. However, it is best to call as early in pregnancy as possible to ensure that your midwife has space for you.

There are currently more than 900 midwives registered with the College of Midwives of Ontario.

What are the principles of midwifery care?

There are three important principles of midwifery care:

Continuity of Care

Midwives usually work in small groups and are on 24-hour call. A pregnant client will get to know a small group of midwives (2-4) to ensure that the client is comfortable and familiar with the caregivers who will attend the birth. Generally, two midwives will attend each birth and share the care throughout the pregnancy, labour, birth and after the birth for six weeks. They will offer education, counselling, advocacy and emotional support. Each midwife will take the time to build a relationship of trust and safety with each client. If medical problems develop during pregnancy, labour, birth or postpartum, midwives work closely with specialist physicians and nursing staff.

Informed Choice

Midwives encourage each client to take an active part in care throughout pregnancy and birth and will provide information so that the client can make choices about care. Midwives provide sufficient time during prenatal care to discuss questions about important issues like nutrition, birth plans, breastfeeding and parenting. Midwives recognize and support the client as the main decision-maker.

Choice of Birthplace

The pregnant client chooses whether to give birth in a hospital, at one of Ontario’s two birth centres in Ottawa or Toronto, or at home under the primary care of the midwife. Midwives are trained to attend births in these places as well as to help individual clients choose the safest place for them. Many clients who opt to have a hospital birth spend time at home with their midwife before going to hospital.

Midwives’ training prepares them to be responsible for decisions about labour, delivery, postpartum and newborn care both at home or in hospital. Midwives work closely with other community midwives, doctors and nurses to maintain a high standard of care.

How do I find a midwife?

The Association of Ontario Midwives can provide information on where midwifery services are located in Ontario. You may contact them at the following address:

Association of Ontario Midwives
365 Bloor Street East, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario
M4W 3L4
Phone: 416-425-9974
Toll-free in Ontario: 1-866-418-3773
Fax: 416-425-6905
E-mail: admin@aom.on.ca
Web site: www.aom.on.ca

The College of Midwives of Ontario regulates the midwifery profession and provides an annual assessment and registration program for internationally trained midwives. Their address is:

College of Midwives of Ontario
Mailing Address: 55 St. Clair Avenue West, P.O. Box 27
Toronto, Ontario
M4V 2Y7
Physical Address: 21 St. Clair Avenue East, Suite 303
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 1L9
Phone: 416-640-2252 
Toll-free: 1-844-640-2252
Fax: 416-640-2252
Email: admin@cmo.on.ca
Website: www.cmo.on.ca

Aboriginal midwives who practice in their own communities are exempt under the Midwifery Act. For more information about Aboriginal Midwifery, contact:

National Aboriginal Council of Midwives (NACM)
59 Riverview
Montréal, Québec
H8R 3R9
Phone: 514-807-3668
Fax: 514-738-0370

Midwifery Education Programs

Laurentian University
Midwifery Education Program
35 Ramsey Lake Road
Sudbury, Ontario
P3E 2C6
Phone: 1-800-461-4030 or 705-675-1151
Website: laurentian.ca/program/midwifery

Midwifery Education Program
McMaster University, HSC 4H24
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1
phone: (905) 525-9140 x 26654
email: midwifery@mcmaster.ca
website: midwifery.mcmaster.ca

Ryerson University
Midwifery Education Program
99 Gerrard St. East, Room SHE - 582
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 1G7
Phone: 416-979-5104
Fax: 416-979-5271
Website: www.ryerson.ca/midwife

Mailing Address:
350 Victoria Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5B 2K3

The Midwifery Program at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care allocates midwifery services to communities across the province. The address is:

Program Manager
Ontario Midwifery Program
Primary Health Care Branch
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
1075 Bay Street, 9th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 2B1
Phone: 1-866-766-0266
Fax: 416-326-4194
Email: midwifery@ontario.ca

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at:
1–866–532–3161 (Toll–free)
In Toronto, (416) 314–5518
TTY 1–800–387–5559.
In Toronto, TTY (416)327–4282
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

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