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Canada - Birth

It is normal in many provinces for a pregnant woman to be given a choice about the care she receives during her pregnancy and while giving birth. You can often choose from your GP, a midwife or an obstetrician to oversee the pregnancy. There may be fewer choices in more remote areas. If your pregnancy is considered to be high risk then you will be advised to have the pregnancy overseen by the obstetrician.

Most women will undergo their first medical examination between the 8th and the 12th weeks of pregnancy. This will be the consultation which covers family medical history, birth options and health advice. It is recommended by the Canadian Health Service that pregnant women should have a check up with their doctor at least once every 4 to 6 weeks. Each province is required to keep complete medical records on pregnancy and an up to date pre-natal record needs to be kept by the mother-to-be and this should be taken to the hospital when you go in to give birth. Prior to the birth there are pre-natal classes, often held at the hospitals, and it is recommended that you attend these.

The vast majority of women in Canada will give birth in a hospital. Some provinces give the option of a home birth and some will have designated birthing centres. Water births are becoming very popular in some parts of the world but these are not widely available in Canada. Your doctor will be able to give you an idea of the options that are available to you at your first pregnancy medical appointment. All types of pain relief for the birth are available. Many women choose to hire a doula to assist them through the birth of their child and this is becoming a popular practice in Canada.

Most new mothers will stay in hospital for a period of around 2 days if they have given birth naturally and 3 or more days if the baby was delivered by Caesarean section. Different hospitals will have different recommendations. In addition both mother and baby undergo a medical check six weeks after the birth and the health of the new born is monitored for a year as part of a national programme.

When the baby is born the birth will need to be registered. The procedures are slightly different in each province and for the latest requirements for your area you can log on to the website of the local registry office. As an example, in Ontario there are a number of ways in which you can register the birth of a baby. They have the Newborn Registration service, which covers a number of aspects of the process. This covers the registration and application for a birth certificate, the application for a social insurance number for the child and the application for child benefits. You simply make one visit to the registry office. You do not have to use this service and can instead complete the Statement of Live Birth form, which should contain all the details of the child’s birth. This should be accurate as this forms the basis of the legal record of the child. Parents need to sign the form and all births need to be registered in Ontario within 30 days. There are no fees involved in the actual registration of the child but there are fees for copies of the birth certificate.

As a comparison, in British Colombia the registration system is based on the Registration of Live Birth forms that are given by the hospital when the child is born. If a person is applying as a single mother they must complete the declaration that the father is not being registered. If the declaration states that the father is incapable then supporting documentation may be required. In British Colombia it is possible for a ‘co-parent’ to be registered in place of a father but that person must be in a permanent relationship with the mother. British Colombia also has guidelines on a child’s name, for example names that have accents on the letters can only have French accents.

Abortion is legal in Canada and can be carried out up to 20 weeks. As with most countries there are groups and campaigns against it but the regulations say that there are no restrictions on any woman seeking an abortion within the legal time frame.

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