For many rural women giving birth, travel is part of the experience

Mothers-to-be in rural and remote parts of Canada face a different experience than their urban counterparts when they are giving birth, with longer trips to hospital and less access to the specialist doctors that women in urban centres might see.

TORONTO — Mothers-to-be in rural and remote parts of Canada face a different experience than their urban counterparts when they are giving birth, with longer trips to hospital and less access to the specialist doctors that women in urban centres might see.

But despite that, the outcomes in terms of their health and their babies’ health does not seem to be substantially different, says a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Women from remote and rural communities are 28 times more likely to travel more than two hours to give birth and if they need to deliver by caesarean section, they are 13 times more likely to have the operation performed by a family doctor or a general surgeon than by an obstetrician or a gynecologist, the report shows.

But they appear to be slightly less likely to deliver by C-section, and are more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth.

The findings were generated from a CIHI analysis of five years’ worth of data on women delivering babies in remote and rural areas. The aim, said a CIHI executive, is to give health authorities a picture of the experiences women from these parts of Canada face when giving birth.

“We’ve given the health authorities some basic data and that will allow them to look at their own experiences and to possibly talk to other health authorities similar to them and say, ’How do your outcomes differ from ours?”’ says Anne McFarlane, the vice-president of the western office and development initiatives for CIHI.

“It’s hard for rural health authorities to get data, because … the numbers are smaller than they are in an urban centre.”

The report found that there were 242,550 in-hospital deliveries for women from rural and remote areas during the five-year period, representing 18 per cent of all hospital deliveries in the country. The period studied in the report ran from 2007 to 2012. The report looked at births in all parts of Canada except Quebec, which declined to take part in the study.

As of 2011, 19 per cent of Canadians lived in a rural area, defined by Statistics Canada as a community of 10,000 or fewer.

“That’s not absolutely huge, but when you think of 242,000 babies being born over five years, that’s a lot of babies and a lot of services,” says McFarlane, who added that the diversity of necessary obstetrical services and the unpredictability of birth dates provide extra challenges for rural care providers.

Those varying needs reflect the fact that 67 per cent of rural women give birth in urban hospitals, the CIHI report says. As a result, 17 per cent of women from rural and remote communities had to travel more than two hours to deliver their babies.

An October 2012 position paper by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada argued that women shouldn’t have to travel long distances to give birth, saying that having access to services locally leads to better outcomes.

“(Travelling to an urban centre) is an imposition on them, and on their families, and the psychological and emotional stress of having to travel, of leaving your other kids, all the little things we find joyous about having babies — for a lot of rural women it’s more stressful for them,” McFarlane says.

However, while the access to care for women may be different, the outcomes proved surprisingly similar. For rural women, severe health issues and unplanned rehospitalizations were only slightly more common.

“The differences weren’t huge, and that was interesting and reassuring, in the sense that you think, ’These two systems are planned differently, but they seem to be working relatively similarly for outcomes,”’ says McFarlane.

“One of things we see clearly is there is a system of care, and the system of care for rural women includes both rural and urban hospitals because you may need to be transferred to an urban hospital.”

Just Posted

Alberta is now below 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, as the province reported 2,639 Wednesday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer below 100 active COVID-19 cases for first time since March

69.7 per cent of Albertans 12 and over have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

A Comox Valley 55+ baseball team isa being organized for the 2021 season. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
18U AAA Carstar Braves start season strong

The Red Deer Carstar 18U AAA Carstar Braves started the Baseball Alberta… Continue reading

(Contributed image).
Online poetry reading to benefit Red Deer women experiencing period poverty

The Period Promise Poetry Powerhouse is a central Alberta collective of some… Continue reading

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

OTTAWA — Annamie Paul is firing back against the coterie of party… Continue reading

Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan leaves the Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Bill to implement UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clears Senate

OTTAWA — A landmark piece of Liberal legislation aimed at harmonizing Canada’s… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) flips a shot on New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov (40) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Russian goalies highlight Lightning-Islanders series

NEW YORK — Semyon Varlamov is the wily veteran, coming off a… Continue reading

Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime reacts during his ATP Tour Singles, Men, Round of 16 tennis match against Switzerland's Roger Federer in Halle, Germany, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Friso Gentsch-dpa via AP
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Roger Federer in second round of Noventi Open

HALLE, Germany — Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime earned one of the biggest victories… Continue reading

A course official keeps out of the sun on the seventh green during a practice round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A different US Open than imagined at Torrey Pines

The spectacular ocean vistas will fill TV screens as usual, along with… Continue reading

A commuter pumps gas into their vehicle at a Esso gas station in Toronto on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Statistics Canada will say this morning how fast prices rose in May compared to the same month one year earlier amid expectations of a hot inflation figure for the second month in a row. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Annual inflation rate climbs to 3.6 per cent in May, highest in a decade

OTTAWA — Prices across the country rose at their fastest annual rate… Continue reading

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

OTTAWA — Better protections for the rights of air travellers, immediate refunds… Continue reading

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson speaks to media during the Liberal cabinet retreat at the Fairmont Hotel in Winnipeg, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. Wilkinson says Ottawa will step in to conduct assessments of new coal mines that could release the contaminant selenium.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Sudoma
Ottawa to review new steelmaking coal projects in Alberta’s foothills for selenium

The federal government will step in to conduct an environmental review of… Continue reading

Most Read