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Maternity Experiences Survey

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The Daily

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just over one-half (54%) of Canadian women who gave birth during a three-month period last year found their overall experience of labour and birth to be "very positive," according to a new survey.

Another one-quarter of them (26%) considered it "somewhat positive," while the remaining 20% chose a neutral or a negative rating.

These findings come from the first ever national survey of maternity experiences of women in Canada, a core project of the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System.

The survey covered a large number of issues related to conception, pregnancy, labour and birth, and post-partum experiences. These included questions on maternal and infant health, satisfaction with health care, infant feeding, smoking, alcohol and drug use, physical and sexual abuse, stressful life events and post-partum depression.

Ratings of the labour and birth experience did not vary much across age groups, provinces and territories, whether women had a caesarean delivery or a vaginal delivery, or whether they were having their first baby or a later one.

However, women whose primary caregiver at birth was a midwife rated their labour and birth experiences as "very positive" more often (71%) than those cared for by obstetrician/gynaecologists, family doctors or nurses and nurse practitioners (53%).

The majority of women were happy with their caregivers. About three-quarters were "very satisfied" with the respect shown to them by caregivers, their caregivers' perceived competence, concern for their privacy and dignity and their involvement in decision-making.

Fewer women were very satisfied in other areas. Nearly two-thirds (65%) were very satisfied with the compassion and understanding they were shown by their health care providers, while only 62% were very satisfied with the information they were given by caregivers.

When asked about stress, more than half (57%) said the year prior to giving birth was either "somewhat stressful" or "very stressful."

The most frequently reported potentially stressful events were, in decreasing order: moving to a new address, serious illness of close family members, arguing more than usual with a partner, the death of someone close and financial difficulties.

While about 15% of women in the survey had been previously diagnosed with depression, 7% of the women reported current symptoms indicative of depression.

The prevalence of depressive symptoms did not vary significantly by the timing of the interview, conducted 5 to 14 months post-partum. Using the same post-partum depression screening tool, other countries, such as the United States and Sweden reported between 10% and 20% of women with post-partum depression.

Note: The Maternity Experiences Survey (MES), conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada, explored Canadian women's experiences, attitudes and practices surrounding conception, pregnancy, birth and the early months of parenthood. Its goal was to identify areas of strength and those in need of strengthening in Canadian maternity health services from the perspective of women. Interviews were conducted with 6,421 mothers when babies were, on average, seven months of age. The average age of the mothers at the time of the interview was 30. A full report on the MES will be available from the Public Health Agency of Canada in May 2008.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5019.

For more information about the Maternity Experiences Survey, consult the Public Health Agency of Canada website (

For more information about this release, contact Alain Desroches (613-948-7970; alain_desroches@, Public Health Agency of Canada.

Data from the Maternity Experiences Survey are now available. For more information, or to enquire about the methods, concepts or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-461-9050; 613-951-3321; fax: 613-951-4527;, Special Surveys Division.