Prenatal Care in Canada

Understanding where to begin, and where to get the help you need in Canada...

The place of residence of the mother-to-be and what is available in her locality will determine who carries out the prenatal care. In many provinces a woman has the choice of family doctor, obstetrician or midwife to care for her during pregnancy. It is normal for midwives to care for low-risk pregnancies only, while obstetricians oversee higher risk pregnancies.

The first prenatal check normally takes place between 8 and 12 weeks, where a dating scan is usually carried out. The doctor will ask questions about family history, the date of the last menstrual cycle, the lifestyle of the mother-to-be and discuss birth options. Again procedures and schedules vary between provinces.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) recommends that after the first check-up, pregnant women see their family doctor or obstetrician every four to six weeks until 30 weeks. Check-ups will be more regular after 30 weeks and, for pregnancies with any complications, it is normal for diagnostic and screening scans to be carried out at about 20 weeks.

Pregnancy records

National Guidelines from the Health Agency of Canada state that standardised pregnancy records should be held by each province and territory and recommend that women keep a copy of their prenatal record, which should be taken to the birth. Ask the family doctor or obstetrician for more details.

Prenatal education

National guidelines state that prenatal education should be offered in support of healthy lifestyles, to enhance family relationships, to enable childbirth preparation, to assist breast feeding and prepare for the transition to motherhood. Most health municipalities offer a variety of strategies for prenatal education. Group prenatal education is likely to take place in hospitals, public health units, community health centres and at a midwife's office. Again, the doctor, local hospital or obstetrician can provide further details.