The Midwives Association of B.C. says major regulatory change and more funding is needed if B.C. midwives are to meet growing demand as the number of family physicians practising obstetrics dwindles.

Twenty rural maternity services have closed in B.C. since 2000, and the association says the maternity care gap will grow as the number of births is projected to increase 17 per cent to more than 50 thousand in the next 10 years. 

"Giving birth is not supposed to be a big problem and midwives go into it with that perspective — and I really appreciate that approach'- mom Karla Denovo

It's calling for the full integration of midwifery into B.C.'s health care system with the goal of having midwives assist in 35 percent of births by 2020.

MABC vice president Kelly Hayes says currently midwives handle only about half that number of births.

"We have people that are calling in on a regular basis wanting to access midwifery care, but because our care is so intensive we can only take a small amount of women in any month and so we are having to turn women away."

Executive director Ganga Jolicoeur says increased government support now will save the province money in the long run.

"We need 21 million dollars between now and 2020 in order to provide cost savings to the system of over 60 million dollars."

Moms turn out in support

 A number of grateful moms gathered in downtown Vancouver Thursday to show their support for the program. Karla Denovo says having a midwife around for support feels natural and is comforting.

Mothers show support

Moms, who have been helped by midwives, turn out to show their support for the profession. (CBC)

"Giving birth is not supposed to be a big problem and midwives go into it with that perspective — that's its just a normal thing that your body will do and i really appreciate that approach."

In a written brief, the midwives association says midwives often have trouble getting hospital privileges or being included  in health authority planning — barriers that need to be eliminated if midwifery services are to be fully integrated in the community.

The association is calling for better training programs, more support for midwives in remote communities and continuing education and skill upgrade programs to keep trained professionals current.

So far, Victoria has been listening.  Two years ago, the province contributed almost two and a half million dollars toward midwifery, in education programs, and for care in rural and remote areas.

In a statement following the delivery of their brief, the health ministry called midwives a 'valuable part of the system.' The ministry says it has just received the document and is looking forward to reviewing it.

with files from the CBC's Stephanie Mercier