All women deserve quality maternity care, regardless of whether they live in urban, rural, or remote communities. Women who live rurally may have a different birth experience than women living in urban centres. Many rural women, particularly in northern communities, have to travel for long periods to reach the hospital where their baby will be delivered. Rural women are more likely to have a family doctor as a health care provider, where urban women are more likely to have obstetricians or midwives. However, both rural and urban women tend to have relatively similar outcomes and rates of complications for both moms and babies. Travelling far from home can be stressful for both the mom and the family left behind. It can be distressing to navigate such a significant life event in the absence of community and family supports.
Many of the women living in remote areas of Canada are Indigenous. Traditionally, these women gave birth in their communities. Cultural practice creates strong roots for the mother, her infant, and the family. After many decades of hospital deliveries in urban centres, there is now a movement to return birth to the community, in a local, rural hospital.
Most women with low-risk pregnancies can safely deliver in remote communities where there is no access to surgical care. There is even some evidence that the outcomes are better when women do not have to travel far from their communities. Some communities have established birth programs to help return birth to their community. Access to midwifery is also increasing. However, each woman must decide where she wants to give birth. Understanding the risks and advantages of delivering where there is no access to emergency C-section and other support services available at larger hospitals is important. Talk to your health care provider for information specific to your particular location to make an informed decision.