Considerations for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women

Rural living and birth

Traditionally, Indigenous women gave birth in their communities. There are strong community roots for the mother, infant, and family. Currently, most women deliver their babies in hospital. Many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women are transferred out of their communities, sometimes for several weeks before giving birth. This can be very stressful on a family. A movement towards bringing birth back to Indigenous communities is underway with the support of organizations including the SOGC. It is well-documented that women with low-risk pregnancies can safely give birth in remote communities. Ideal birth services in remote areas should involve a collaboration of caregivers (e.g., midwives, nurses, doulas, family physicians) and provide woman-centred care.

Aboriginal midwifery

Midwives are women with specialized knowledge in prenatal care, birthing assistance, and aftercare. The midwife may use massage, diets, medicines, ritual, prayers and/or counselling. Midwifery practice was discouraged throughout colonization, but Aboriginal midwifery is regaining a role in many communities.

Traditional foods

Try to eat a variety of foods from the four food groups described in Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide – First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Some traditional foods may contain contaminants (e.g., mercury, lead) that could be harmful to a growing fetus. Arctic char and caribou carry low levels of contaminants and pregnant and lactating women are encouraged to consume these foods.

Drinking water

Women who are considering becoming pregnant need clean water. Water contamination is known to be a problem in many First Nations communities. These advisories happen because of problems in the water system, such as line breaks, equipment failure, or inadequate disinfection. Some advisories allow water to be consumed after boiling, and some are Do Not Drink or Do Not Use. Be sure you are aware of the water advisories in your area.

Health benefits

Health Canada provides eligible First Nations and Inuit with coverage for many health related goods and services. Prenatal vitamins, folic acid and other supplements are provided without charge to eligible women with a prescription.