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Ottawa Gears Up to Cut Newborn and New Parent Services

By Misty Pratt, CD(DONA)

Did you read this article in the Ottawa Citizen? In short, public health services in Ottawa for newborns and new parents may be cut, in order to balance the budget in 2015.

Currently, all new parents in Ottawa receive a telephone call from a public health nurse in the days following birth. It's a check-in to assess for any potential issues, and provides follow-up or referrals to other resources (lactation consultants, postpartum depression resources etc.) Furthermore, Ottawa Public Health runs free prenatal classes at local library branches, which have become quite popular since The Ottawa Hospital cut their classes back in 2012 - it's unclear from the article whether these classes will be cut.

Maternal morbidity in the postpartum period can extend beyond the first several days, and early intervention is key - health problems such as incontinence, headaches, perineal pain, infection and postpartum depression are common, yet go unreported when new mothers are dealing with the care of a newborn. Furthermore, our dismal breastfeeding rates after several weeks postpartum point to a clear lack of support and information related to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding

What's a parent to do? If you are expecting a baby this year (or planning for the future), I strongly encourage you to provide feedback to the Ottawa Board of Health. Beyond that, I've offered a number of tips below:

  • Get a midwife: midwives have a much better track record than doctors for postpartum support - following you throughout the first 6 weeks postpartum, you are visited at home in the first week, and have the option of contacting your midwife to talk about any specific problems you may be facing.
  • Check out the Monarch Centre: a brand new health facility which supports parents in the postpartum period. You will have access to newborn health physicians, nurses and certified lactation consultants.
  • Budget for a good prenatal class: if the city cancels its prenatal education program, parents will have no choice but to pay privately for a class. As a doula, I can't stress enough the importance of taking a class - the average will run you between $125-$150. Your parents want to get you something special for the baby? This is it!
  • Budget for a lactation consultant: if you plan to breastfeed, definitely put $160 away (the cost of a 2-hour consultation with an IBCLC).
  • Consider hiring a Postpartum Doula: these special doulas help facilitate your transition to new parenthood. Find out more by clicking here.

I know what you're thinking: "that's a lot of money, Misty, and how is it fair that I pay out of pocket for this?" 

It's not fair. But it seems to be the reality here in Ontario, as more and more cuts are made to essential social services. Politicians, nurses, educators and healthcare providers are all doing their best, but the system has significant gaps (that said, the Citizen article made it clear that services would still be available to disadvantaged populations). So it's up to most parents to fill in those gaps - and it's not impossible! Check back tomorrow as I provide tips on how to save money AND have a baby!

So tell me - did you find Ottawa Public Health services to be helpful after you had a baby? And how much of your own money did you spend on support and information?