The B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) has issued a public advisory about unnamed individuals unlawfully practising as midwives after receiving reports of "tragic outcomes — including death," from people who have used unlicensed providers.
"These individuals do not have the same training, experience, and access to life-saving medications and equipment as midwives, nor integration with hospitals for emergency care if needed, resulting in significant risks to the health and safety of birthing persons and their babies," reads the advisory.
In B.C., midwifery is a regulated profession. Midwives must complete a four-year university program and pass a national exam before they can be registered with the college.
The title "midwife" is protected, and variations such as "birth attendant," "birth keeper," or "traditional midwife" are considered unauthorized if used by an unregistered provider.
According to the BCCNM advisory, the individuals in question have been providing prenatal care, attending labours, delivering babies and managing home births when they are not permitted to do so.
The college said it issued the advisory because of a surge in complaints — 13 in the past 18 months.
"A number of cases have come in through our investigations department about unauthorized professionals and midwives in particular," said Christine Penney, BCCNM chief officer for regulatory policy.
Penney said if an investigation finds a midwife is unlicensed they will be named on the college website and could face legal action, including an injunction order.
"When we get into investigating complaints, we uncover the situation that went wrong. And yes, it can be injury to the baby or the mom," said Penney.
"We don't know how many unauthorized practitioners are active in B.C. because we depend on the reporting to us, which can come from health professionals, doctors, nurses, others or the public themselves."
Dawn's website said she offered "traditional midwifery" services, including pre- and post-birth coaching sessions and attendance at home births.
The BCCNM has an online registry to verify if a practitioner is licensed. Penney said there are currently 387 licensed midwives in the province.