Maternity Care In Canada: What The Options Are And How To Decide On A Birth Plan
Support for women during active labour and birth significantly increases a family’s satisfaction with the birth experience as a whole. It also helps enhance the positive attitude women will need to care for their newborn babies. It is essential that women have supportive care throughout the entire pregnancy, labour, birth and post-pregnancy periods. In Canada, there is a lot of focus on what the mother wants, and a large emphasis on natural birth whenever possible. Interventions only occur when the reasons to do so are well documented and evidence based.Canada is considered one of the best places in the world to give birth. In fact, “birth tourism” in Canada is quite popular, largely due to the fact that it is one of the only developed countries that grants any baby born in Canada the right to become a Canadian citizen, regardless of the parents’ citizenship or visa status.
Labour and birth in Canada
There are approximately 389,912 births a year in Canada. In a survey, the majority of women reported that overall their experience of labour and birth was positive. Many had their husband or partner with them during labour and birth, and felt fully supported and listened to by their birthing team. Typically, women in Canada can give birth in one of three places:
• Hospital (public or private)
• Dedicated birthing centre
Where you decide to give birth is ultimately up to you, unless your pregnancy is considered high risk and the doctors want you to give birth in hospital so that they can monitor you.
You can also choose your doctor and midwife. When making your choice, you may want to consider asking potential candidates some questions to check whether they are definitely the right fit for you, such as their experiences with and beliefs on childbirth. It may also be important for you to have a prenatal care provider who is familiar with your individual situation, with reference to details such as your religion and medical history.
Including prenatal care and resting in the maternity ward after giving birth, most new mothers in Canada will only need to be in the hospital for a short period of time. The average hospital stay for new mothers after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery is around two to three days. If the baby is delivered through a C-section, the stay usually increases to around four days, as the risk of infection and complications are higher in C-section births.
New mothers come from various different backgrounds, and often have concerns around their own unique situations when preparing to give birth. Here are some statistics relating to births in Canada, showing the relative frequency of different scenarios:
• 6% of women of reproductive age in Canada have a disability
• 46% of adult women in Canada are overweight or obese
• 27% of pregnancies in Canada are affected by a chronic illness
• 3% of all births in Canada are multiple births
• 20% of all births in Canada are among women over 35 years old
• 8% of infants in Canada are born prematurely
• 4% of total births in Canada are affected by a congenital anomaly
The cost of having a baby in Canada
Canada has a public healthcare system in place that is funded by taxes. If you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and have a valid health card, you will have access to this system. This means that having a baby in Canada can be completely free in some cases, or cost a very small amount – a few hundred dollars for a private room.
Tourists, visitors, and non-residents will have to pay the medical bills of giving birth out-of-pocket, unless they have international health insurance that covers these charges. Generally speaking, the cost of having a baby in Canada without private insurance or public healthcare is roughly C$5,000 to C$8,000 for an uncomplicated regular vaginal birth, and C$10,000 to C$12,000 for a C-section delivery.
A birth plan should be drawn up ahead of time and checked over by your birthing team. A birth plan should outline your preferences during your labour and delivery. For example, it may include who you want with you during labour, whether you want pain medication, and if you want the lights dimmed. You can include anything you think will make your labour and birth more comfortable for you. Of course, your birthing team may have to deviate from your birth plan in certain situations, as it’s difficult to predict what will happen during your delivery.
What to include in a birth plan
Many first time mothers may feel daunted or confused about what to include in their birth plan. First, discuss your options with your doctor, and ask any questions you want answering. After this, you can put together your birth plan, which should be kept short, so that it’s easy for everyone to read. It should include:
• Your name, your doctor’s name and contact information
• Where you’re planning to give birth, and who you want to have with you
• Details about what will make you feel most comfortable – consider things like whether you would like a birth photographer, or as quiet a space as possible, or music playing etc.
• Any labour preferences you have, such as a birthing stool, balls, chairs, a warm shower or bath etc.
• Pain management – this is a very important aspect to consider. You may not plan to have an epidural, or any drugs at all, but you may change your mind once you are in labour. Alternatively, you may definitely want to have an epidural if possible. Ask your doctor about pain relief options before you make a decision.
• Details of your delivery preferences – for example, whether you want to have a vaginal birth, whether you would prefer to avoid having an episiotomy unless it’s absolutely medically necessary, whether you would like your partner to cut the umbilical cord etc.You may also want to consider whether you would like your baby placed on your abdomen right after delivery, and who you would like with you in the delivery room if you are having a C-section.
• Details around feeding and care, for once your baby is born – for example, whether you want to breastfeed straight after delivery, or whether you are thinking about a mixture of bottle feeding and breastfeeding
• Whether you would like your baby in the hospital room with you at all times, or whether you would prefer your baby to stay in the nursery sometimes so that you can get some rest
Reviewing your birth plan
First go through your birth plan with your partner and anyone else who will be with you in the delivery room, such as a labour coach, birth photographer, doula, etc. After this, ask your doctor to take a look at your birth plan. Reviewing your birth plan ahead of time gives you plenty of time to resolve any potential issues that your birth team might have.
Who needs a copy of your birth plan?
Once your birth plan has been written and reviewed by your birth team, you should give a copy to your doctor to keep along with your medical records. Then give copies to anyone who will be with you during labour, and make extras to take with you to the hospital when you go into labour, in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
Birth plans are not a necessity, and if you are not sure what you want, or you are just happy to go with how you feel in the moment, then that is also perfectly fine. However, you should still discuss this with your doctor and birth team beforehand, so that you are on the same page.
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