What you need to know about Markham Stouffville Hospital's new Alongside Midwifery Unit (AMU)

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It was announced this week that the new Alongside Midwifery Unit (AMU) at Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) will be open as of next week, and will be accepting patients as of July 9th. I couldn't be more excited for this news (#birthnerd) because as a birth worker and a woman of child-bearing age I've been contemplating lately (and feeling quite frustrated with) the lack of birth centre options for birthing persons in the Greater Toronto Area.

Although home birth is just as safe as hospital birth according to the stats (watch for another blog post on home birth soon!), it isn't always an option. There is the lack of available midwives (by the way, if you want a midwife I'd highly recommend contacting a few different clinics as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed!), as well as a lack of education on the safety of home birth (sometimes making partners uncomfortable - including my own, and I have all the info at hand!), or the fear around not having NICU or obstetrical resources nearby in case of emergency. 

And let's be honest here - as much as hospitals have come a long way in making their birthing suites feel more home-like, you still know you're in a hospital, with all the hospital procedures and protocols to deal with. 

The AMU then is a middle-ground between home birth and hospital birth. Birthing persons and their families will still get the home-like feel that they would at home, but will have the added benefit of having a multitude of birth tools available AND obstetrical services right across the hall if needed. It's literally like the best of both worlds.

So here's a quick rundown on what YOU need to know about the new AMU:

• There are 6 suites on the unit, and it is expected that 60 births will take place a month, with that number increasing to 100 in the next 6 years.

• You will need to find a midwife from one of the following clinics: Midwifery Services of Durham, Midwifery Services of Markham Stouffville, or Uxbridge Community Midwives

• Some of the equipment for comfort measures you'll find include: an inflatable birth tub (and yes, you can birth in the water!), a birth stool, a sling, a BirthRite chair, birth balls, and nitrous oxide.

• Each room has a double-wide Murphy bed, which can be folded up when not in use to allow more room for the birth equipment to be used.

• If you want an epidural you can have one, and still stay on the unit - you don't have to be transferred to the obstetrical unit.

• Obstetrical, neonatal, and anaesthetic care, as well as diagnostic imaging, are right across the hall if needed.

I am so so so happy that there is now another option, and who knows, maybe I'll see you there soon!

 A view of one of the birthing suites, courtesy of Markham Stouffville Hospital

A view of one of the birthing suites, courtesy of Markham Stouffville Hospital