Demand for midwife services in Alberta has spiked since the provincial government began funding in April. ((CBC))

The demand for midwifery services among pregnant women is greater than the provincial government ever dreamed. 

The numbers began to shoot up when Alberta Health began covering the cost eight months ago. The provincial health budget allotted funds for the province's 43 licensed midwives to handle 1,000 patients this year.

But the demand has so far exceeded the supply that more than 90 per cent of pregnant women in Calgary who want to use a midwife are being turned down, said Jane Baker, president of the Alberta Association of Midwives.

She said as soon as the province announced funding for the service, the association's phones "started ringing off the hook. It was just — all the practices were immediately full."

Baker says midwives are facing two main problems.

"We don't have enough midwives, but in order for us to recruit midwives, we have to have courses of care in order for them to come," she said. "We could do more than we've been allotted."

Jade Payer, an expectant mother who just moved to Calgary from Quebec, was disappointed to discover all of the midwives in the province were booked up to nine months in advance.

"Everybody told me that they are full already for mid-May so I'm on the waiting list," Payer said, "but they said you must find a doctor because the waiting list is nothing sure."

Unique experience

Payer said she has managed to find an obstetrician in Calgary, but worries she will be missing out on a unique experience.

"You hear people talking about their experience and when you know about midwife practice you know that this is what you want," she said, "because you're more active with your delivery."

Baker sympathizes.

"We have stories like, 'Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to have a midwife,' and now they can't get in.  We know it's heartbreaking — for us, too. We wish there were more of us. There just are not."

According the AAM, only about 10 new midwives have come to Alberta since the funding was announced last April. However, the AAM and Mount Royal University are working to create a four-year program to train midwives in Calgary.

However, it will require provincial approval and funding.

"Could be another year before that opens and then it's a four-year baccalaureate degree program," Baker said.

For now, Baker said, the best thing for pregnant women to do is phone the association as soon as possible and recognize that not everybody's going to be getting a midwife.