Open Access Research article

Navigating maternity health care: a survey of the Canadian prairie newcomer experience

Zubia Mumtaz1*, Beverley O’Brien2 and Gina Higginbottom2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health, University of Alberta, 3–309 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 – 87 Ave, Edmonton, AB T6G 1C9, Canada

2 Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, 3–309 Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, 11405 – 87 Ave, Edmonton, AB T6G 1C9, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-4

Published: 6 January 2014



Immigration to Canada has significantly increased in recent years, particularly in the Prairie Provinces. There is evidence that pregnant newcomer women often encounter challenges when attempting to navigate the health system. Our aim was to explore newcomer women’s experiences in Canada regarding pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care and to assess the degree to which Canada provides equitable access to pregnancy and delivery services.


Data were obtained from the Canadian Maternity Experiences Survey. Women (N = 6,241) participated in structured computer-assisted telephone interviews. Women from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were included in this analysis. A total of 140 newcomers (arriving in Canada after 1996) and 1137 Canadian-born women met inclusion criteria.


Newcomers were more likely to be university graduates, but had lower incomes than Canadian-born women. No differences were found in newcomer ability to access acceptable prenatal care, although fewer received information regarding emotional and physical changes during pregnancy. Rates of C-sections were higher for newcomers than Canadian-born women (36.1% vs. 24.7%, p = 0.02). Newcomers were also more likely to be placed in stirrups for birth and have an assisted birth.


Although newcomers residing in Prairie Provinces receive adequate maternity care, improvements are needed with respect to provision of information related to postpartum depression and informed choice around the need for C-sections.

Maternity services; Prairie Provinces Canada; Newcomer experiences; Maternity experiences survey