Welcoming a new addition: HHS Midwifery Care Unit
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) recently welcomed a new addition to the family – a Midwifery Care Unit (MCU) at our McMaster University Medical Centre. While still in the early stages of development, the four-room MCU opened last spring, down the hall from labour and delivery, and is one of the first of its kind in Canada. The only other hospital-based midwifery-led unit is at Oak Valley Health’s Markham-Stouffville Hospital.
Hamilton’s MCU includes three birthing rooms and a recovery room where clients can stay for post-partum care after delivering their babies.
The MCU is ideal for people who want to give birth in hospital, but in a more home-like setting with their community midwife.
Its services are for community midwifery clients whose births are considered low risk because complications are unlikely. HHS patients who don’t use a community midwife, or whose pregnancies are considered high risk, are cared for by an obstetrician and give birth on the labour and delivery unit.
Giving birth in the new MCU
The MCU is ideal for people who want to give birth in hospital, but in a more home-like setting with their community midwife, says Lisa Sabatino, interim deputy chief of midwifery in the HHS obstetrics and gynecology department.
The MCU has specialized equipment including birthing chairs, so clients can give birth in an upright position if they choose. Water birthing in an inflatable tub is another option.
Clients have the same pain relief options as those giving birth on the labour and delivery unit, including an epidural if they choose.
Clients can also choose an early discharge, where they’re able to return home three to six hours after giving birth. Or they can stay longer if needed.
“It’s wonderful for local midwives to have a dedicated space in hospital that’s midwifery-led.” — Genevieve Romanek, registered midwife
HHS employs six hospital-based midwives, whose roles include coordinating care on the MCU. They also support hospital patients who might not otherwise have access to a midwife in the community.
Hamilton residents Dalya and Waheed Ahmadi’s son Mohammad was born in the MCU last fall. “The facilities and teams were excellent,” says Waheed.
Dalya described her experience in the MCU as “wonderful.”
“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone, and especially my midwives for their assistance, care and kindness. It was a very supportive experience throughout.”
A midwife’s role
Registered midwives deliver babies in the hospital or home, depending on the clients’ preferences and needs. There are four midwifery practices in Hamilton, and these midwives attend approximately 800 births each year, with over 90 percent in hospital. Two of the four practices, Access Midwives and Community Midwives of Hamilton, do the most midwifery-led births at HHS.
As well as delivering babies, community midwives are the clients’ primary care providers for prenatal care including check-ups, ordering ultrasounds and bloodwork, and for six weeks after the birth.
Dalya and Waheed’s older son, Abdullah, was born at a private hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan where their health-care team included midwives, so the couple were familiar with this role. When they learned that they were expecting again, this time in Hamilton, they reached out to Access Midwives.
“It’s wonderful for local midwives to have a dedicated space in hospital that’s midwifery-led,” says Genevieve Romanek, a registered midwife with Access Midwives who helped care for Dalya and delivered Mohammad in the MCU.
“Our clients are quite excited about the MCU, and if they do have complications, the labour and delivery unit and obstetrical care are quickly accessed down the hallway,” says Romanek.
There currently aren’t enough registered midwifery services in Ontario to meet the growing demand, says Sabatino, who looks forward to the day when any pregnant person wanting to use a midwife has that option, including Hamilton-area clients wanting a midwifery-led birth at the MCU.
“Our goal is that every pregnant person who’s interested in having a midwife involved in their care can do so with the support of our hospitalist midwifery team if they choose.”
Anyone with questions about the MCU is welcome to email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.