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Maternity matters: addressing the maternity care crisis in Canada.

CHILDBIRTH IS A MAJOR EVENT in the lives of women who become mothers, and for their families and communities. Each year in Canada, over 300,000 women give birth. Most of the time pregnancy and childbirth are healthy experiences for both women and their babies. Pregnancy and birth are, in fact, so ordinary or commonplace that they may be invisible--in society as well as on political and health agendas. Because it is such an ordinary part of life, we have just assumed that good maternity care is readily available for women and families as they move from pregnancy through birth, to breastfeeding and parenting.

Despite its everyday occurrence however, pregnancy and childbirth are approached as serious, potentially life-threatening medical conditions, requiring both medical specialists and a great deal of technology, rather than as normal, healthy physiological events. Given this approach to pregnancy and childbirth, access to medical care affects where and how women experience these life events.

Today, in Canada, there are reforms to maternity care provision that raise questions about whether it is really available for women and their families. Fewer family physicians are providing maternity care, especially during labour and birth. Even routine prenatal care is difficult to get in some communities. And fewer small hospitals provide maternity care, forcing many women to leave their families and travel long distances to give birth.

Governments, health authorities, physicians and nurses tend to think of recent changes in maternity care as a human resource problem because there are fewer experts to provide care. But maternity matters in Canada for many more reasons. Not only do women have difficulty finding supportive, attentive, respectful care providers close to home, women also need care providers who use what we already know from research and experience about what helps and what harms women and their babies.

Why should we be concerned about the state of maternity care? Because maternity care is different from other health services. First, babies cannot wait--there can be no waiting lists for maternity care. Second, women's experiences during pregnancy and birth, good or bad, can deeply affect how women feel about their babies, about themselves as mothers, and their other relationships.

Providing pregnant and birthing women with good care improves the lives of women and their children both immediately and in the long term.

Read the full booklet, Maternity Matters from Women and Health Care Reform. Available online at:

Hard copies of the booklet can also be ordered from: 1-888-818-9172 or

from Women and Health Care Reform
COPYRIGHT 2007 Canadian Women's Health Network
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Network (Winnipeg)
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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