Equality Report Card: Birthing Options

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Our Analysis:

It’s good news that both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is now permitting mothers and babies to be cared for together in the mother’s room 24 hours a day, and by the same nurse when possible. It is also great that the facilities at the Prince County Hospital are up-to-date for meeting women’s needs for family-centred maternity care.

The facilities at the QEH simply don’t accommodate family-centred maternity care that meets Health Canada guidelines. The timeline the QEH has given for updating its maternity unit is 7 to 8 years. That’s a lot of babies and new moms waiting for improved family-centred care.

Women on PEI still have few birth options beyond hospital births, and while there is more awareness in government about the need for choices, there have been no steps towards regulating midwifery, which is critical to expanding birth options. PEI is now the last province in Canada with no midwifery regulation and funding, even though the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada supports regulated midwifery as part of the health care team. We hear some women are choosing to have unassisted home births because of lack of options.

PEI has active doulas (birth support people), but few women can pay for this private service. International controlled trials show that having a doula present for a birth consistently leads to a 50% reduction in the rate of cesarean section (Klaus and Kennell). In PEI, we had 1,348 births in 2006/2007. According to the Canadian average, 18.6% of these, or about 250 births, would have been a primary cesarean section (Canadian Institute of Health Information). In 2002/2003, it cost on average $1,800 more to care for mothers with cesarean sections than mothers who gave birth vaginally. If all mothers had access to a doula and the rate of sections reduced by half, this could result in savings of at least $225,000 a year on PEI, an amount that could fully subsidize doula care for about 25% of pregnant Island women.


This is an excerpt from the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women 2009 Equality Report Card for PEI, released in June 2009 and based on information updated to May 30, 2009.

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