The Maternity Crisis in Saskatchewan

October 10, 2017

Maternal mortality rates have more than doubled since 1990, and the cost per birth is almost ten times what it was then. Yet outcomes for new mothers have continued to deteriorate. In addition, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in new mothers, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. With 1 of every 19 maternal deaths being attributed to suicide in Ontario, with rural populations having the highest rates of suicide1. And 1 in 5 new mothers suffering from post partum depression and anxiety.

So what has changed in just one generation?  The ability of women and famlies to access supportive care providers has since been replaced with limited access to expensive obstetrical surgeons. In 1990, a family doctor would attend the births of an entire family. Now doctors that attend births are a group of many. There is no continuity of care. The doctor you see for prenatal will not be the same practitioner attending your birth. This leaves women with no options forced to spread their legs in front of a group of strangers. Women are left feeling unsupported, many with symptoms of PTSD.

In a recent interview with a retired family doctor and long time maternity care advocate, Dr. Dale Dewar, stated that since 1970, “[she] has watched with great sadness, the deterioration of rural maternity care in Saskatchewan. [She] cannot determine why rural midwives have not been made to fill the gaps that family doctors used to fill in this province.”  Unfortunately, midwives have continued to be poorly funded and barely supported. In August of 2017, 70%n of women who applied for a midwife in this province were turned away. According to a recent study from the University of British Columbia, for women under a midwife’s care, birth outcomes are better and come at a average cost savings of $2500 per birth2. With 16,000 births annually in this province, the savings could be substantial. Except that currently, midwives only attend less than 3% of Saskatchewan births3. This is due primarily to lack of funding.

This situation leaves many women looking for alternative care options. Private women called 'doulas' are filling this much needed role, offering prenatal, labour, and post partum support to women. This non-medical birth support is privately paid for by expectant mothers and their families. These services are rarely found in our overworked, underfunded public health care system. The rise in demand for private maternity care services, is due to the government's inability to address the maternity health care crisis in this province. The decline in outcomes for new mothers, as statisitics have shown, will only continue to worsen unless changes are made.  How many more women and families have to suffer before changes are made in this province?

1. Dr. S. Grigoriadis et al. 2017. Perinatal suicide in Ontario, Canada: a 15-year population-based study. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.170088 CMAJ August 28, 2017 vol. 189 no. 34 E1085-E1092.
2. Patricia A. Janssen, PhD, Lee Saxell, MA, Lesley A. Page, PhD, Michael C. Klein, MD, Robert M. Liston, MD, Shoo K. Lee, MBBS PhD. Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician. CMAJ September 15, 2009 vol. 181 no. 6-7First published August 31, 2009, doi:10.1503/cmaj.081869.
3. CAM, 2017:…/09/midwifery-assisted-births/. Sept 1, 2017.

For additional information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Yvonne Potter Pihach
Health Critic, Saskatchewan Green Party