Skip to main content

Birth Con: new convention born out of desire to improve birth experience.

Attendees at Birth Con on April 26, 2024. Photo by Ryan Wilson IWK.

All things birth were in the spotlight as an exciting conference took place at IWK Health.

Birth Con was held April 26 and 27 at the IWK Health University Avenue campus. Close to 100 attendees, speakers and interprofessional birth workers from across Nova Scotia and beyond participated in the two-day learning event aimed at improving birth outcomes – both physical and psychological.

“When we attended and presented at the Canadian Association of Perinatal and Women’s Health Nurses conference last April, there was a strong focus from the presenters on trauma-informed care, which we were very pleased to see,” says Maxine Bernard, conference co-organizer and clinical leader of development for the IWK Health Birth Unit. “We immediately started to dream of our own conference, taking trauma-informed care even further, to have a conference focused on preventing birth trauma.”

Co-organizer Jenn Jollymore sees the close connection between an empowered birth experience and postpartum mental health in her role as a clinical nurse specialist with IWK’s Birth Unit.

“There is a clear need to promote greater awareness of this topic and to find ways to prevent birth trauma from occurring,” Jollymore says. “We wanted to create an opportunity to bring people together and start conversations about these topics while learning valuable skills.”

Conference-goers heard from various professional speakers on a wide range of topics and took part in interactive workshops with some of the biggest names in birth work.

Paulina Meader presents at Birth Con. Photo by Ryan Wilson IWK.

Paulina Meader presents at Birth Con. Photo by Ryan Wilson IWK.

Paulina Meader, licensed practical nurse and health director at Wije’winen Health Centre, gave a presentation on traditional Indigenous pregnancy, birth and parenting practices.

“Culturally safe and inclusive care is essential because it’s the only way to repair the damage that the medical system has had on all marginalized groups,” Meader says. “We have to repair broken trust to build healthier relationships with communities and each other as healthcare providers.”

The keynote presentation was delivered by The Birth Nurse, Mandy Irby, touching on trauma responsive care in birth work. Irby also led two hands-on skills sessions.

Carole Rankin shows off the Community Threads quilt at Birth Con. Photo by Ryan Wilson IWK.

Carole Rankin shows off the Community Threads quilt at Birth Con. Photo by Ryan Wilson IWK.

Carole Rankin spoke about her own experience of birth trauma and her work to promote perinatal mental health awareness through a community quilt project.

Wanda Cox, a local doula and Evidence Based Birth instructor, facilitated two interactive workshops on comfort measures for labour and birth nurses and allied professionals.

While Birth Con was held in Halifax, Bernard and Jollymore feel the impact will be far-reaching.

“This event has sparked a movement across the province with attendees. They have told us that they acknowledge there is important work to do and they want to stay connected to support one another along the way,” Bernard says.

“We are trying to promote consistency in care across the province, so it doesn’t matter where someone gives birth, they can expect the same kinds of evidence-based support, positioning and comfort measures to protect and promote their birth experience,” Jollymore adds. “By providing hands-on experience and training in positioning and comfort measures, patients will have nurses, doulas and midwives with the skills and tools to support them.”

Organizers hope to build on the success of the inaugural conference with the possibility of another Birth Con in the future – and another chance to continue this important work.