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Canadian Public Health Association

Current issues

Pregnant womanWomen's age at first child's birth

It is increasingly common for Canadian women to delay childbearing. In 1987, only 4% of first births occurred among women aged 35 and up; by 2005, the rate had nearly tripled to 11%. The proportion of first births occurring among women in their early 30s also increased from 15% to 26%. Medically speaking, older mothers are at increased risk of prenatal and birth-related complications. Less is known about the relationship between advanced maternal age and the child's development.

Caesarean deliveries

Caesarean delivery is a surgical procedure that can save lives of mothers and babies. The proportion of babies delivered by caesarean continues to increase in Canada. In 2004-5, 26% of hospital deliveries were caesarean deliveries compared to 18% in 1995-06. A study conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada that compared the outcomes of healthy women having a planned caesarean with those having planned vaginal delivery found that, overall, the women having a caesarean delivery had three times the rate of severe illness after delivery compared to the women with planned vaginal delivery. They also stayed longer in hospital, on average.

Episiotomy rate

The national episiotomy rate has declined dramatically in the past decade. An episiotomy is a surgical incision made at the vaginal opening during birth to assist in delivery of the baby. The World Health Organization recommends against routine episiotomy. The number of episiotomies performed in Canada between 1995 and 2005 decreased by 34%.

Premature births

More and more babies are being born prematurely in Canada, with a rate of 8.2 preterm births per 100 live births in 2004, compared to 7.0 per 100 in 1995. Babies born preterm have an increased risk of illness or death in infancy and of childhood developmental problems.

twin girlsMultiple births

Multiple births have increased from 2.2 per 100 total births in 1995 to 3.0 per 100 total births in 2004. Older mothers are more likely to have a multiple pregnancy, as are women who use fertility treatments and assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization.

For more information

  • The Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System (CPSS) - The CPSS is a national health surveillance program at the Public Health Agency of Canada to contribute to improved health for pregnant women, mothers and infants in Canada