U of A program supports Nunavit women to birth at home
"A healthy community has to be one where women can give birth," said O'Brien, who has been travelling to Nunavut for three years to speak with traditional midwives, most in their 80s. They share stories of feeding the best cut of meats to expectant mothers and delivering babies in ice houses, or tents made of furs. That history is informing the new midwifery program"
The aim of the program is to train midwives locally so more Nunavut mothers can give birth in their home communities.
Kango, a traditional midwife who learned her skills from her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and other northern elders, is now sharing her knowledge through Nunavut's first midwifery training program.
"Before colonization", Kango said "there were no doctors or nurses in Nunavut, so men and women stepped forward to be midwives. But in the 1960s and '70s, when western medicine arrived full force, mothers had to leave their homes, husbands and children six to seven months before their delivery to give birth in distant hospitals".
"With this kind of method of hospitals to send the mother out without husband or parents to attend, it was hard for the mother," Kango said. "With increased stressed, they would smoke more, lose their appetite and lose interest in looking after themselves. Oftentimes, health professionals couldn't speak any Inuit languages, leaving the women isolated in pain".
Midwifery takes a northern look