Midwifery at McMaster McMaster’s midwifery program needs to address patients with traumatic histories


By: Touka Ali

Pregnancy and birth are such transformative periods in one’s life and as a midwifery student, it is my goal is to do everything in my power to make it a positive experience. I think that McMaster has the potential to equip student midwives to do this. The program has taught me not only how to be a good midwife, but how to help clients enjoy their experience.

However, I think that there is always potential for improvement. I’ve noticed the lack of adequate education integrated into the program surrounding caring for clients with a history of sexual violence, and this is something that needs to change.

Unfortunately, many survivors experience re-traumatization during maternity care, and many of the conditions that trigger re-traumatization are preventable and/or can be dealt with properly if maternity care providers are adequately trained to care for survivors. I want to feel prepared and equipped to provide survivors the quality maternity care that they deserve and my program should help me do that.

I’ve noticed the lack of adequate education integrated into the program surrounding caring for clients with a history of sexual violence, and this is something that needs to change

I want midwifery care to be an opportunity for healing, and this can be facilitated by increasing training and education in this area. It’s about time that survivors’ healthcare/maternity care needs are prioritized.

Presently, there has been increased momentum around the #MeToo movement and I think that this momentum is a great opportunity for healthcare providers to reflect on the care they provide and the ways in which they may be facilitating or preventing progress. Our healthcare system has the power to either perpetuate or resist rape culture and given McMaster’s reputation for healthcare education, we have a responsibility to make sure we align ourselves with the latter of the two.

At its core, midwifery as a profession historically corresponds with social justice and human rights activism. The significance of the #MeToo movement has been pervasive both socially and politically and has now found it’s roots in most educational facilities, which is why it is important for healthcare providers to have better understandings of the larger power structures that impact the clients we care for.

The people we care for do not exist in a vacuum and their health and wellbeing is implicated by larger systems, including the many ways in which rape culture manifests. It is vital to incorporate this understanding into the healthcare system, because we do not want to reproduce oppressive patterns in our care. The McMaster midwifery program presently provides some education in this area, but there is always room for improvement.

I’ve grown up around stories my mom used to tell me about her days as a midwife, so I was exposed to the profession at a young age. My mom was a midwife during war conditions, but she has this gift of making people feel safe and calm with just her presence. My mom was an anchor for the women she cared for during difficult times. I’ve grown up around stories of what my mom has done for other women via midwifery, and I’ve also seen firsthand what midwifery has done for the women close to me.

When it came time to choose a career, I chose to do something that resonated with fundamental aspects of the human experience. Midwifery gives the power back to women and pregnant persons, and it’s a great responsibility to be in the position to empower someone during such a transformative time of their life. This is not a responsibility I take lightly, which is why I think its important to strive towards improving the learning happening inside the classroom and aligning it with current social and political education.


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