FREDERICTON -- Midwives in New Brunswick have begun seeing their first patients -- becoming one of the last provinces to provide publicly funded and regulated midwifery services.

Only Prince Edward Island and Yukon territory are without enabling legislation, while Newfoundland and Labrador just hired its first midwife co-ordinator, although services are not yet available.

New Brunswick announced plans for midwives in 2008 but only passed legislation last year.

Midwives can provide care before, during and after low-risk pregnancies.

There are currently about 1,500 midwives across Canada, with half of them in Ontario, which has allowed them since 1994.

Midwives assisted in more than 38,000 births across Canada last year.