In light of “maternal evacuation,” Inuit women on Labrador’s north coast want a midwife at home


Pregnant women in Labrador's coastal communities often have to travel to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the weeks before their expected delivery date, but an Inuit women's coalition is working to keep them closer to home.

Earlier this month, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada released a report on the need for midwifery services in Inuit communities. The group says midwives – traditionally an important part of Inuit culture – are an important asset in enabling women to give birth at home, where they feel comfortable and safe.

The report calls for a national framework for all provinces and territories.

“It is absolutely important for Pauktuutit to bring this back because it is a right of Inuit women to give birth in their home regions and it is something that is wanted,” said Pauktuutit President Nancy Etok. “It is an absolute Inuit tradition. They have been practicing midwives since time immemorial.”

LISTEN | Nancy Etok explains why midwifery should return to Inuit communities:

Newfoundland and Labrador committed to licensing and regulating midwifery in 2014, but the first clinic didn't open until 2020 – in Gander, far from the Labrador coast.

Etok said women in Inuit communities face extreme stress when they leave their homes and move to larger centers for maternal health care and child birth. There is the stress of being away from their partners, their other children and their work.

She said the message from Inuit women in compiling their report was clear: “All Inuit women wanted midwifery to come back because…maternal evacuation causes great trauma, not just for mother and child, but for the whole Family.” .”

LISTEN | Duncan McCue's documentary about the return of midwives to Inuit communities:

Etok pointed to Nunavik, the Inuit region in northern Quebec, where midwives have been commonplace since 1986.

The program there combines traditional knowledge with modern medicine and aims to keep women in their communities whenever possible.

“There is, which is absolutely a perfect example of what can be achieved,” she said.

Etok said the framework would require collaboration from various groups and would follow in the footsteps of the Nunavik program.

She said Pauktuutit wants women to know it is committed to advancing the issue in Inuit communities, including Nunatsiavut.

“We will work very hard to make this happen so that everyone, every family member, can celebrate the birth of the baby they will welcome into their community,” she said. “We will do everything we can to make that happen.”

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