More midwives needed in N.L., says mom who gave birth in Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot

A new mother says her child’s parking-lot birth could have been avoided if the provincial government had acted more quickly to make midwives available in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Carla Deveau was born in the backseat of her parents’ car, outside a Shoppers Drug Mart in the west end of St. John’s. The birth went well but her mother, Nicole Deveau, says it was stressful.

“It was December with every car door open — and it was freezing,” she said.


Nicole Deveau and newborn Carla shortly after her birth outside a St. John’s drug store in December. (Submitted by Nicole Deveau)

Deveau says that drama was something she had tried hard to avoid.

‘If we had that plan in place, there wouldn’t have been any panic to it at all.’– Nicole Deveau

The Deveau’s second child, Elsie, also came quickly. Her parents just barely made it to the hospital for her birth.

So when Deveau learned she was pregnant again, she tried to arrange a home birth but was disappointed to find that midwives still aren’t available in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Preganancy Blood Clots

In this file photo, an expecting mother is examined by a midwife during a home visit in the United States. (Andrew Shurtleff/AP)

“Had we just gone upstairs it would have been more comfortable but we didn’t have that option — when, realistically, if we had had that plan in place, there wouldn’t have been any panic to it at all,” said Deveau.

Midwives coming

Some progress has been made.

At the Confederation Building in St. John’s, politicians and staff have been talking about bringing midwives to Newfoundland and Labrador for decades.

In 2015, legislation was adopted to make midwives part of the health-care system. In the fall of 2017, consultant Gisela Becker was hired to figure out how to do that, and the health minister now says the province is expected to start hiring midwives soon.

“Job postings are coming in the spring of 2018 with the idea that staff would be on the ground in the fall of next year as part of an integrated pilot initially in Gander,” said John Haggie.


Health Minister John Haggie says midwives are a good option for many families. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

After midwives are integrated with the Central Health Authority, a similar pilot is expected on the Avalon Peninsula. Haggie says if everything goes as planned, midwives will be working across the province in 2019.

Choice to have birth at home

That’s obviously too late for Nicole Deveau who says her third baby, Carla, is probably her family’s last. But she says she hopes that the many people in Newfoundland and Labrador who have told her they want to have home births will be able to get help from a midwife soon.

‘Building on models that are centuries old in some areas.’– John Haggie

Haggie, a physician who was trained in the U.K., says midwives are a good option for many families.

He also says they make sense in a health-care system that’s considering where doctors should focus their efforts.

“The whole big discussion point in health care is around scopes of practice. We have significant resources that could take a big part of the health-care delivery away from a physician-centred model,” he said.

“Eighty percent of a general, normal day’s work for a family practitioner can be managed perfectly well and in some respects with a better outcome by nurse-practitioners, for example. This, with midwifery, is actually building on models that are centuries old in some areas.”

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