A woman who was mistreated during maternity care for her first pregnancy who went on advocate for respectful, informed maternity care and now researches birth experiences to better understand the challenges that exist in all stages of maternity care for both birthing people and care providers to better inform efforts to improve care.
A woman whom experienced trauma and abuse in childbirth and after the experience of a healing birth despite lack of a supportive care provider now strives to challenge care providers to advocate for informed choice and focus on empowered woman-centred birth and evidence based care.
A mother of two boys who experienced birth both in a medicalized setting and in the care of a midwife out of hospital, who changed careers based on the profound differences in her birth settings, and now supports pregnant women through pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.
A woman who had a fairly stereotypical experience with maternity care and hospital birth with her first child and, despite experiencing no trauma, felt that something was missing and went on to do research and pursue midwifery care and homebirth with her next three children.
A well birth-educated woman who experienced an unnecessary cascade of interventions leading to an unnecessary and traumatic c-section due to rural, non-evidence-based practices in a health care system built on patriarchy and the expectation that women will do what they’re told to; who now suffers from unknown secondary infertility and has experienced five consecutive miscarriages.
In 2013, maternity care consumers around Alberta grew increasingly concerned about the state of maternity care within the province. Specifically, there were issues with a deficit of maternity care providers (especially for low-risk pregnancies), access to care for rural and remote residents, as well as huge wait lists for midwifery care and areas of the province that simply had no access at all, to name just a couple of the major concerns at the time.
In October of that year, representatives from consumer groups across Alberta, including some Albertans with decades of maternity care advocacy experience, met with representatives from the Alberta College of Midwives and the Alberta Association of Midwives to discuss the ongoing challenges with maternity care in Alberta, particularly with midwifery wait lists and lack of access to midwives in much of the province. Out of that meeting, MCAN was revived to serve as an Alberta-wide maternity care consumer advocacy group that would work to ensure consumers had a voice, with the goal of speaking to ongoing issues with maternity health care and policy. MCAN's roots go back to 1986 and it had been dormant for sometime.
The first major engagement of MCAN was to conduct a listening campaign to better understand consumers’ burning issues in maternity care across the province. The campaign involved an online survey with over 1,200 responses and 9 focus groups facilitated by long time maternity care champion, Dr. Lolly de Jonge. MCAN released the Listening Campaign Report in November of 2014 at a press release that was covered by major television and radio news stations. MCAN continues to share the consumer concerns revealed by the report to politicians, policy makers, as well as health care professionals and administrators.
Since the release of the report, MCAN has been involved in important maternity care advocacy including representing consumers on numbers Alberta Health Services committees as patient representatives, providing comments for media stories on maternity care to better inform the public, facilitating information and education between Albertans, government, and maternity care consumers and working with other consumer organizations to advance work on diverse issues in maternity care.
In the last year, MCAN established four mandates to move forward in an organized way on identified issues in the provision of maternity care at all stages. This provides a framework for MCAN to support the inclusion of all aspects of the childbirth continuum (pre-natal, pregnancy, labour and delivery, post-partum, breastfeeding, early childhood), ensuring that this season of a mother’s life has the support necessary through these transitional and formative times. Though these have been identified as four separate mandates, MCAN recognizes that these topics overlap and anticipates mandate committees will work collaboratively as needed. With the support of the MCAN Board of Directors, each committee will plan and carry its actions to address their respective mandates. The four mandates are:
1) Infant Feeding Support: To improve infant feeding support for families by lobbying for Alberta Health Services to adopt the Baby-Friendly Initiative and to fund human donor milk.
2) Maternal Mental Health: To improve mental health support in all aspects and stages of maternity care.
3) Under-served Populations: To increase maternity care services to under-served populations and rural areas
4) Childbirth Continuum Funding: To support women in their ability to freely choose where, how and with whom they birth by supporting healthcare-provider funding that follows the consumer, not the caregiver
Mental Health Mandate Committee
The Maternal Mental Health Mandate Committee is kickstarting the MCAN blog. The current committee members have introduced their backgrounds with maternity care in the opening statements of this post.
There were many ideas, issues and initiatives that fell under the umbrella of mental health including birth trauma, pregnancy and infant loss, post-partum depression and anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder to name a few.
The Maternal Mental Health Mandate Committee has already outlined a number of goals to pursue, beginning with the following:
● To create and develop space and modes for the identification of services, needs, and goals for Albertans to share and discuss their maternal mental health experiences and concerns (including infertility, pre-natal, birth, post-natal, and pregnancy and infant loss).
● To work with various organizations to develop methods for all Albertans to access maternal mental health resources and support, regardless of economic level or situation.
● To challenge the stigma surrounding maternal mental health issues, and show how the freedom to choose where, how, and with whom Albertans birth and feed their babies positively impacts maternal mental health.
At this time the committee is made up of women with a wide array of maternity care experiences including infertility, pregnancy loss, post-partum mental health concerns, and birth trauma. With experience as mothers, mental health professionals, doulas, researchers, writers, and business owners.
You can expect to see the Maternal Mental Health Mandate Committee carrying out work in numerous areas. Regular blog posts, vlogs, and podcasts from committee members, guests, and Albertans who wish to make submissions will help to share information with readers on topics related to maternal mental health. We will also continue to develop an online database of mental health resources for all areas of the province to better support individuals in understanding what services are available to them when they are in need. We will continue to pursue working relationships with other related organizations across the province. Finally, we will pursue awareness about maternal mental health matters to the public to help reduce the stigma that can be associated with mental health issues.
If you are interested in participating in these efforts or have questions or suggestions for the committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope that mental health will continue to grow as a priority in maternity care and health care in general and will make efforts to pursue this aim. We wish to thank all of MCAN’s volunteers now and in the past who have worked to sustain the organization and its mission. Finally, we wish to especially thank those maternity care matriarchs who have spent decades investing their time to advocate for improved care for all Albertans.
Look forward to more communication from MCAN’s Maternal Mental Health Mandate Committee!
-The Committee Members, as listed below.
Nicole Hill - Blog article writer, Regional Leader (Edmonton)
Monique Durette - MCAN President, Committee Chair
Jen Kennett - Regional Leader (Fort McMurray)
Julia Diette Lynx - Regional Leader (Bow Valley)
Amanda Matwie - Regional Leader (Lethbridge/Medicine Hat)
Misti Lee McFarlane - Regional Leader (Edmonton)
Samantha Powell - Regional Leader (Okotoks)
Stephanie Capyk - Volunteer Member of Committee (Peace River)
Katarina Semancikova - Volunteer Member of Committee (Fort McMurray)