Pregnancy, birth and parenting supports as sites of rural resistance

Rural communities in Canada tend to suffer from a lack of access to services, including health and related services for pregnant and parenting women. Lack of access to such services has health consequences and significantly shapes social relations within communities. In particular, supports for pregnancy, birth, and parenting can be designed to foster connection and belonging, facilitating health, material, and psycho-social well being. While the transition to motherhood is often cited as a pivotal and joyous moment in women’s lives, it is also important to understand pregnancy, birth, and parenting as times of potential vulnerability. To build resilient rural communities in which families flourish, adequate support programs and systems are necessary.

A major policy shift in Nova Scotia has been the regulation of midwifery as a profession, beginning in 2006. Regulation is a response to long-held demands by stakeholders, and has the potential to expand women’s access to choice in provider-type and birth location. However, the majority of communities in Nova Scotia, including Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley, do not have access to this care provision model. As was noted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, “for many women, midwifery care is less accessible now than it was before legislation was passed[.] . . . with legalization, families in the Annapolis Valley lost access to a service they had for many years”. As midwifery sites in Nova Scotia have yet to expand beyond the pilot phase of three sites, it is an important time to explore the relationships between midwifery care and rural resilience and to identify opportunities and challenges to extending the care model.

This study focuses on two specific sites, Wolfville & the Annapolis Valley, as well as Lunenburg & the Southern Shore area. In each of these communities, we will be conducting focus groups with mothers of children born in Nova Scotia. In Lunenburg, we will also be speaking with registered midwives. In addition, we hope to interview a broad range of stakeholders. This may include those who work with birth as well as maternity care advocates. We are interested in speaking to a diverse range of rural residents, including Mi’kmaq women, young women, and low-income women. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at kaylamccarney@acadiau.ca.

Your participation will help us to answer the research question: How has the professionalization of midwifery in Nova Scotia affected families, care provision, and support services in two rural communities, a community that does not have a midwifery pilot program and a community that does have a midwifery pilot program?