Birth centers

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Birth centers
Birth centers

Mothers-to-be now have access to 11 birth centers – and six more will follow – in Quebec. This is insufficient… yet there is also a lack of midwives.


Pregnant women in Quebec are still a long way from deserting hospitals to give birth: currently just over 2% of babies are born in a birth center with the help of a midwife. The Minister of He alth, Yves Bolduc, hopes that this proportion will rise to 10% by 2018, one of the objectives of his government's Politique de péninatalité 2008-2018.

But to make her wish come true – and that of many expectant mothers! –, it will take a roof to accommodate these women and nimble hands to pick up their babies! There are currently 11 birth homes in urban areas and two in the Far North. Six houses are "in the plans" of the Charest government, including three in Montreal, one in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, one in Quebec (uncertain), one in Lanaudière in 2013 and many of course the one in Montérégie, which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.

Note that at least six hospitals currently offer the possibility of giving birth with the assistance of a midwife; this option is nothowever not very popular.

Issue of territory

Not all mothers-to-be have the same opportunities when it comes to access to birthing centres…it all depends on where they live!

Some of them are well served, that is to say that they do not refuse requests for pregnancy monitoring, while in other regions, the needs are far from being fulfilled.

These needs are glaring in Estrie, where there is only one maternity center, in the West Island of Montreal and in Montérégie, where fortunately three other birth centers are planned over the next few years, not to mention the one that opens its doors in the spring in Haut-Richelieu.

The place, yes, but you also need human resources

We may want more of these welcoming places for the women who will give birth, but we also need the manpower, that is to say the essential midwives to deliver these women!

According to the Ministry of He alth and Social Services (MSSS), The Order of Midwives currently has 140 members, 120 of whom work in birthing centres.

For now, one of the concrete intentions of the MSSS is to add 122 new full-time equivalent midwifery positions by 2019.

According to the president of the Regroupement Les sages-femmes du Québec, these wishes are laudable, but they will not meet all the needs. And the targets for the proportion of women withuse a midwife to give birth? "It's good, but we can't go faster than the growth in the number of midwives," says Claudia Faille.


Even if the candidates were jostling at the doors of UQTR (University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières – the only Quebec university that offers the bachelor's degree in midwifery practice), we have not yet a sufficient number of internship supervisors for all these future graduates, underlines Ms. Faille.

There will therefore be a need for more midwives who will accumulate years of practice to be able to supervise trainees… but perhaps also more birth centres, because a large number of future mothers who wish to live their pregnancy and childbirth with the support of a midwife want to do it in a birthing centre.

At the moment the problem looks like a spinning wheel, but the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, as demonstrated by the opening of new birthing centers and the efforts of midwives to take their place.

Midwives speak out

May 2011. Midwives and a large number of “supporters”, future mothers and others, made their voices heard loud and clear before the National Assembly – in addition to filing a petition – for demand accessible midwifery services everywhere in Quebec.

A coalition made up of representatives of the Regroupement Les sages-femmes du Québec and the Ordre des sages-femmes alsoissued recommendations for the improvement of these services.

  • That the implementation of the perinatal policy continue to achieve the objectives of increasing accessibility to midwifery services
  • That we promote better coordination for the coordination of midwifery services and the establishment of birth centres
  • That the launch of an awareness campaign on the safety of midwifery practice
  • That these recommendations be effective no later than October 2012

Obviously, it will still take a lot of money and government will to manage to unclog the delivery rooms of hospitals and suddenly meet the growing demand for women who want a place in a birth center, but we can take comfort in saying that Quebec is a few steps ahead of the other provinces: in Ontario, midwives are currently campaigning to demand birth centres.

Montérégie will have its birth center in the spring of 2012

The establishment, which will open its doors this spring, will in fact be the first of four birth centers that will welcome future mothers from the greater Montérégie region.

Five midwives have already been providing pregnancy monitoring since September 2011 and 12 babies have been born in hospital or at home thanks to their support.

The new house, which will occupy the premises of the former CLSC, on Martel Street in Richelieu, will be able to meet the needs of approximately 240women per year.

We have set up four birth rooms (three of which have a bath), four consultation offices, a playroom (for big brothers and big sisters!), a rest room for the staff, a common room and a kitchen.

The waiting list already includes names of pregnant women, but we are still far from refusing requests.

The real estate project cost $1.1 million; the MSSS paid a share of $804,000 and the balance of the cost is assumed by the Fondation Santé Haut-Richelieu-Rouville.


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