Giving birth in Canada
In Canada over 385,000 babies were born in 2018, that’s over 1,000 every day! Canada has public healthcare which is provincialized and in Ontario falls under OHIP. If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can access these services without paying.
If you are a tourist, visitor or non-resident, you will have to pay out of pocket unless you have international health insurance and it covers hospital fees.
Cost to have a baby
Having a baby vaginal in Canada costs between $5,000 and $8,000 and delivery by a caesarean is between $10,000 and $12,000. Prenatal doctor visits are around $100 per visit and an ultra sound is $300-$500. There are other tests that may be recommended throughout your pregnancy and without OHIP or insurance, will also be out of pocked.
Non-residents, visitors on a tourist visa or other visas, can deliver a baby in Canada but will not be covered by OHIP.
In Ontario you can choose to have your care and baby delivered by a family doctor, obstetrician or midwife. You are not able to have the care of both a midwife and doctor.
Family doctors must have privileges to deliver babies at the hospital.
Many obstetricians work in a shared model where they have shifts covering the maternity and deliver ward of hospitals. This means that your main obstetrician may not be the one who delivers your baby. When you go into labour you would make your way to the hospital.
Midwives usually work in pairs – a primary for the needs of the mother and secondary for the needs of the baby. When you go into labour you would page your midwife and they would call you and discuss your labour. The midwife may come to your home to assess and then either settle in for a home birth or make the way to the hospital or birth centre.
Doctors and obstetricians recommend that women go to the hospital when they are in active labour. Active labour is typically once contractions are coming every five minutes or less, lasting about a minute and this pattern has been going on for an hour or two. This is also referred to as the 5-1-1 or 5-1-2 rule.
Midwives usually transfer to the hospital, if not delivering at home, later on in active labour, closer to 4-1-1 or 3-1-1.
Care with an Obstetrician
With an obstetrician, you will deliver at a hospital. When you arrive, you will first be seen at labour assessment or triage. At assessment a nurse will gather information from you and will put electronic fetal monitors over your abdomen. Here the nurse is assessing your baby’s heart-rate and your contractions. By monitoring your contractions, the nurse will be able to see how far about they are coming and how strong. Sometimes the nurse will do an internal exam to assess the cervix but often the nurse will wait for the obstetrician who is working to do the internal exam.
After the internal exam, it will be determined if you are admitted or if you go home. If you are in early labour, you may be encouraged to walk around the hospital or return home and come back once active labour has begun. You may also be admitted.
Once admitted you will have one nurse assigned to you. The labour and delivery ward has one to one nursing care. For the nurse’s entire shift, usually 12 hours, they are responsible for one labouring woman until she has her baby.
Nurses perform the majority of the care that is provided. She or he will perform vital checks for the mother including temperature and blood pressure and check fetal monitoring. Nurse have a lot of charting to do and aren’t often able to breathe with their patient’s and coach them through contractions. A doula (link to doula services), a professionally trained labour coach is great to have to provide that emotional and physical support you will need. Doulas however are not covered by OHIP but many extend health care plans cover their services.
Once it is time to have your baby, the obstetrician will arrive and deliver him or her. Once any repairs have been done, if needed the primary care returns back to the nurse. You will spend one to three hours in the labour and delivery room and then are usually moved to another area or floor of the hospital to the postpartum ward where a different nurse will care for you and baby.
Care with a Midwife
If you are under the care of a midwife your labour will look a bit different.
Your midwife is your primary care provider and nurses will not attend to your care, unless your midwife needs them or the obstetrician working the day you go into labour.
The midwife performs similar duties as the nurse including checking your vitals and baby’s as well as charting and they also perform duties similar to the obstetrician including doing internal exams and delivering your baby.
For a vaginal deliver you will stay a few hours after baby has been born and then are usually discharged and return home.
In some situations, the midwife will need to call the obstetrician – these include needed assistance for a vaginal delivery such as forceps or vacuum or if a caesarean is required, the obstetrician will perform it but the midwife will be present in the room with you.
Care with a Family Doctor
If you are under the care of a family doctor, your birth will be very similar to that with an obstetrician. You may see your family doctor in clinic once labour has begun for an internal assessment. Your doctor would then determine if you should return home or go to the hospital.
If you go to the hospital, you will be given a room and will be under the care of a nurse. Your nurse and the obstetrician working that day will be in contact with your family doctor. Your family doctor typically won’t arrive until you are fully dilated or starting to push. Once your family doctor arrives, they will deliver your baby and do any repair work and leave shortly after.
Average cost to have a baby in Canada
If you live in Ontario you are eligible to receive care by a midwife for free, this includes any fees for a caesarean birth including anaesthesia.
If you are birthing at hospital with a midwife, you may have to pay an admission fee and fee for your stay, this can be between $500/night up to $3,000/night.
Vaginal birth can be $5,000 to $8,000 and a caesarean is $10,000 to $12,000.
Average stay in Canadian hospitals
For a vaginal birth with a family doctor or obstetrician, you will stay at least 24 hours at the hospital. You may stay longer if required.
For a caesarean birth with any health care provider, you will stay 48 to 72 hours at the hospital. You may stay longer if required.
During your stay, you may receive items for your baby and yourself such as diapers and pads but do plan on having your own as not all hospitals provide these. You will receive meals during your stay.
To have a baby in Canada, you will need documents including any medical records, healthcare or insurance cards, OHIP card, passport and visas and social insurance number.
Your healthcare provider will provide more guidance on how to register at the hospital, if applicable.
Giving birth in a foreign land can be intimidating and not knowing or understanding the health care system can bring on added stress. At Padma Yogi, our Birth and Labour Doula have supported clients who are on visas, newcomers to Canada and refugees.
We understand the unique challenges that you may face and will work with you to help navigate the healthcare system, ensuring you know your rights, any cultural or religious traditions are honoured and respected and that you have the birth experience that you deserve.
Contact us to book a free consultation and learn more how we can support you and your growing family.