The Challenges of Giving Birth Naturally in Quebec.

The movie “The Business of Being Born” tore through many people’s values and judgments when it came to giving birth, and started a conversation on why we allow so many medical interventions in our birth stories. As women, we started to take back our children’s births, and started believing in ourselves again. No longer is it the job of our doctor to tell us what is best for us. Now, we want to have conversations and exchanges with our doctors and nurses on how to best give birth to our children.


In the past few years, hospitals have been renovating their maternity wings to better accommodate different birthing options. Birthing centres have started to open, and midwifery has been made legal. However, by giving birth in a hospital, I have realized that it is not because you want to give birth naturally that you will be able to.

There is a shortage of doctors in Quebec, as many of us have now realized. Midwives have only been legal since 1999, and there is only one university, in a small city halfway between Montreal and Quebec that trains them, 15 at a time. There are, for now, only 10 birth centres in Quebec, and most hospital’s maternity wings are still out-dated.

I myself was “stuck” with an OBGYN that I knew wasn’t very natural-birth friendly. I was “stuck” giving birth in a hospital that has a reputation of being gung-ho on medical interventions. That is why I hired a doula. I knew that it would be a battle for me to do things without unnecessary medical interventions, and I didn’t feel like spending my time trying to push my baby out by fighting with the hospital staff. This is a decision that I don’t regret.

I now realize that, even if the staff at my hospital believed it was best to do things naturally, they were not trained to know how to handle my pain and labour without the drugs. In fact, the nurse that was in charge of me during my stay was clearly uncomfortable. She would constantly interrupt me during a contraction to talk to me (and I had to ask her to wait for them to be over before asking me anything). She constantly came into my bubble to re-adjust my foetal monitor. Before my doula got to the hospital, she didn’t know how to guide me through my contractions, or wasn’t comfortable doing so. She didn’t know where the birthing exercise balls were (since they were rarely taken out) and had to go ask the head nurse to get one for me.

I find it sad that nurses are not given the training while in school to be able to better assist their patients in birth. Even if you are on medication, good guidance from a nurse can be very comforting and helpful. Perhaps if more nurses were trained in natural ways of dealing with pain, their patients wouldn’t feel the need to take more medications.

I wasn’t able to get into a bath while at the hospital. There were no bars for me to lean on during a contraction. In fact, I had to lean on the foetal hear monitor since this was the only thing high enough to support me. When I couldn’t stand the pain of my contractions anymore and was losing hope that I would get through the process sans-medication, the resident doctor refused to check me, and encouraged the epidural (which turned out to be more than useless).

The doctors in charge of my delivery (my own doctor came in during the morning shift) even argued on what to do with me medically. The first doctor respected my choice of wanting to delay medical interventions if possible and administered a different medication in order to help me dilate without Pitocin. My own doctor came in, angry, and told me that this was not the most “effective” way of giving birth, and the doctor should not have proposed it. I looked at him, and just said “I’m not exactly looking for a quick solution here.” He never listened to me, and ordered Pitocin on the spot without asking me what I thought. My baby was never in danger, I was doing fine, my labour was progressing VERY well. There was no reason for this, and I was only made aware of it after talking with a nurse afterwards. I felt completely defeated.

When I was finally ready to push, there was only one position for me to push in – lying on my back, my legs way up in the air (which in when I realized how impossible it is to push properly on your back!). So even though the Quebec government says in its guide that it is your right to push in the position of your choice, doctors aren’t trained to know how to receive babies in that position, and they refuse to let you push the way you want. Therefore, you have to accommodate them. What is wrong with this picture??

And did I mention that two nurses came to see me after I had given birth in order to congratulate me on my labour process? They told me that I was the “celebrity of the day” since they rarely saw women not resort to pain medication, and greatly admired me (even if I did end up getting the useless epidural in the end). Although I was touched, I thought it was slightly sad in a way…

I am never going to see my doctor again. Next time around, I hope I’ll be able to go to a birthing centre. However, I was warned that this would be impossible. Right now, in Quebec, only 1 in 4 people who ask for a midwife has access to one. My doula even told me that midwives accept first-time moms in priority, and since I’ve already given birth, I would be put at the waaaay-bottom of the list… Although the government has ordered for the opening of 8 more birthing centres by 2018, the schools aren’t training enough midwives every year to staff these centres. In fact, there are only 160 midwives practicing in Quebec right now.

And to think that 26% of women in Quebec right now would wish to give birth in a birthing centre… The need is clearly there. Why is it so hard to do things naturally then?



4 thoughts on “The Challenges of Giving Birth Naturally in Quebec.

  1. Darn, to think I wanted a midwife for my second child (I live in Quebec as well). I was actually pretty pissed after my delivery when I started reading up that I didn’t really have to rush to the hospital when my water broke. That I could have done other things than take Pitocin to get my contractions going. And that avoiding the Pitocin would probably have contributed to avoiding an epidural – which was given to me because my body went into shock from the pain of the contractions. Oh well, I’m still going to go ahead and try to find one.

  2. My second pregnancy was followed by a midwife from La Maison de naissance Cote-des-neiges and there seems to be no priority given to first-time moms, you just have to be real quick on the phone when you get the result of you test!
    Even though I had a natural delivery in the hospital, there is a huge difference during the pregnancy and at birth with a midwife (and a home birth which I had the second time).
    Hope you get the chance to live it the way you want next time!

  3. Thanks for your nice words, Pantayo! Actually, the info about giving priority to first time moms and moms that have already given birth with a midwife was given to me directly from a doula that works for the birthing centre in the West Island!! Perhaps it’s just something they don’t advertise publicly very much? I’m happy to read that you had positive experiences with midwives!

  4. Pingback: To Doula Or Not To Doula? | mommytrainingwheels

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