Category "Women's Issues"


Travel for childbirth ‘terrifying and traumatic’ for Bella Coola moms

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Mom Shaiyena Currie, right, with 3-day-old baby Octavia and her sister Chelsea Currie on their way home to Bella Coola from Williams Lake after three weeks of living in a tent waiting for the birth.


Three weeks after the birth of her daughter Octavia, Bella Coola mom Shaiyena Currie, 23, is still recovering from the trauma of spending 14 days in a tent during the final stretch of her pregnancy.

Since 2008, when Vancouver Coastal Health cut maternity services at Bella Coola General Hospital, pregnant women in the community must travel to Williams Lake a month before their due date.

Pregnant women who travel for their deliveries in the VCH region are eligible for some discounts on ferries and airfares, and a medical discount of about 30 per cent at select hotels, but meals, accommodation, mileage, fuel and local transportation expenses are not included in the provincial Travel Assistance Program.

Currie estimates that the total cost to her and her family for the birth was around $10,000, in part because her sister had to take an unpaid leave from her job to accompany Currie.

“I was worried for my safety. I stayed up all night tossing and turning because of the fear that anybody could just walk into my tent,” said Currie who pitched her tent at the Stampede Campground, not far from Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake.

When a busy horse riding competition started on the stampede grounds, Currie moved to the Stampeder Motel where the slightly discounted medical rate came to $90 a night, plus taxes and fees. The final insult was that she had to give birth alone, because her sister had to watch her son at the hospital while she was delivering. Her mother had planned to be there, but couldn’t make the six-hour drive in time.

Currie calls the whole situation “terrifying and traumatic,” and says people need to know the health and safety risks pregnant women face when travelling to give birth.

Bella Coola mother Katy Best must travel to Richmond to give birth.


Katy Best is a Bella Coola Grade 5 teacher who is expecting her first child will moving back in with her mother in Richmond next week while she awaits her birth.

In a letter to health authorities advocating for change, Best wrote on Aug. 29, “The disruptions to these mothers’ lives are countless, including having to leave children behind or pull them out of school, feeling isolated from their communities and partners at a very vulnerable time, and missing out on nesting at home during their final month of pregnancy.”

Best said she was required to sign a waver stating that she understood childbirth was “inherently dangerous,” and that she would be required to leave the community to give birth.

“If leaving the community is deemed a medical necessity by health authorities, why aren’t the costs covered?”

“This is an equity issue,” says Best, who points out that pregnancy is not a “rare or unforeseeable condition.”

“Based on the fact that you give birth, you have to take on this enormous financial and emotional hardship.”

Best believes that Vancouver Coastal Health saved money by shutting down Bella Coola General’s maternity program, and “off-loaded those costs onto women and families.”

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health told Postmedia in an email, “Improving travel assistance supports, especially for expectant mothers and families, is an issue that I am looking into with the input of Ministry of Health staff and health authorities.”

Vancouver Coastal Health provided Postmedia with a written statement which read in part, “Vancouver Coastal Health recognizes the difficulties in providing health services to residents of remote and rural communities. This issue is not unique to British Columbia, or even to Canada for that matter. Bella Coola Hospital does not have full maternity service.”

A 2013 study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information said 40 per cent of women living in rural Canada drive more than an hour to give birth; 17 per cent drive more than two hours.

A 2008 report from the Centre for Rural Health Research on Maternity Care in Bella Coola stated that cuts to rural maternity services tend to be driven by a trend toward centralization of health services and challenges in attracting nurse, general practitioner surgeons and specialists and lack of access to specialized services such as “access to epidural anesthesia, labour augmentation, or caesarean section backup.”

It’s not good enough for Currie.

“I don’t want another woman to have to sleep in a tent, or worse. Something needs to be arranged so mothers are safe and can give birth in their communities.”

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Moms-to-be ‘fearful’ as Chilliwack maternity ward to close for summer

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Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove has requested a meeting with Health Minister Adrian Dix to express his concerns about the temporary closure of Chilliwack Hospital’s maternity ward.

Francis Georgian / PNG

The mayor of Chilliwack is requesting a meeting with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to express concerns about a plan to close the maternity ward at Chilliwack Hospital for an indeterminate amount of time starting later this month.

The closure is caused by an “unexpected shortfall in obstetricians,” said Jennifer Wilson, medical director for Chilliwack Hospital. Due to a medical leave, the hospital is no longer able to ensure there is an on-call obstetrician available for emergency interventions and C-sections at all times.

Fraser Health is working on a plan to address the problem, but women who expected to give birth in Chilliwack after June 24 will have to go to Abbotsford Regional Hospital instead, said Wilson. “Our goal is to be up and running again as soon as possible.”

The doctor said the decision to close the maternity ward was not made lightly and she “respects” the concerns of women who are now faced with travelling outside their community to deliver. “We are really committed to making things as safe as possible for women.”


But Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove said it is “insane” that his community of 100,000 people will not have a maternity ward this summer. On average, there is between one to two births per day at Chilliwack Hospital.

“I understand that it’s difficult (for Fraser Health), but there should have been a plan in place,” he said.

The mayor said he is asking for a meeting with the provincial health minister to discuss the situation. He has also spoken to the mayor of Hope who is worried about the health of women who will have to travel more than an hour — possibly in rush-hour or long-weekend traffic — to reach the hospital in Abbotsford.

“It’s an hour on a good day. What happens if there’s an accident?” asked Popove.

The mayor said he hasn’t been told when Fraser Health plans to reopen the maternity ward. But he has been hearing from families in his community who are worried and anxious.

Former Chilliwack mayor and B.C. Liberal MLA John Les called the closure “a kick in the head” in response to a Chilliwack Progress news story about the closure.

“This is a bloody outrage,” he said in a Facebook post.

“If implemented, this two- to three-month suspension of deliveries will become permanent,” he speculated. “This has been Fraser Health’s dream all along: centralize everything in Abbotsford.”

Wilson said the hospital plans to maintain its maternity ward and is looking for long-term solutions to the staffing problem. It is also working to address transportation concerns from women who may have trouble reaching Abbotsford.

“We have reassurances from Abbotsford … (that) they have the capacity,” she said.

But registered midwife Libby Gregg said the closure is making women “fearful” about their deliveries.

“They are really suffering,” she said, explaining that some women will lose the doctor who has cared for them through their entire pregnancy because the doctor doesn’t have hospital privileges at the Abbotsford hospital.

“These women will be in an unfamiliar situation with people they don’t know,” she said.

Gregg said an increase in stress and anxiety in the late stages of pregnancy and during delivery can have negative impacts on mothers and babies, including a possible increase in inductions and C-sections.

“The implications are huge and far-reaching.”

Gregg said Chilliwack midwives are stepping up to offer their services to women who are scrambling to find a caregiver ahead of the closure, adding “we’re here to support as many families as we can.”


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Annual Vancouver walk aims to raise $100K for women’s health in Malawi

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More than 500 people turned out Sunday for the Walk in Her Shoes March at the Creekside Community Centre.


Dozens of volunteers participated in the seventh annual Walk In Her Shoes campaign in Vancouver on Sunday, in hopes of raising $100,000 to support women’s and girls’ health in Malawi.

Spearheaded by CARE Canada, the walk seeks to raise awareness of the 10,000 steps, which is about six kilometres, a woman or girl must walk on average to collect water, food or firewood in developing countries around the world. As a result, young girls in these countries are put in danger or miss out on school, while women are left with little time to earn incomes.

“I was struck by the degree of hardship I witnessed in Malawi,” said Joanne Gassman, a CARE volunteer who visited the country in July 2018 to see first-hand CARE’s programs in action.

Nearly three million people don’t have enough to eat, about 68 per cent of women are illiterate, while one in four girls give birth to their first child between the ages of 15 and 19, said Gassman.

“When I saw the difference CARE’s program is making by teaching these courageous and proud people to become self-supporting, I was both touched and more determined than ever to raise the funds so desperately needed.”

Funds from this year’s walk will go toward CARE’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. The program works to improve women’s and babies’ nutrition by providing individual and group nutrition counselling and education, tools to plant community gardens, building water wells and systems to provide clean water access, and boosting a village savings and loans program.

Sunday’s event will be followed by a second walk hosted by students at local schools on March 8, which is also International Women’s Day.

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The Walk in Her Shoes March on Sunday featured 500 people who plan to walk 10,000 steps from Creekside Community Centre to raise funds for women, girls and families in developing countries.



The Walk in Her Shoes March on Sunday featured 500 people who plan to walk 10,000 steps from Creekside Community Centre to raise funds for women, girls and families in developing countries.



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Good sex is all in your head, says The Wellness Show speaker

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The Wellness Show

When: Feb. 2 and 3, 10 a.m.

Where: Vancouver Convention Centre West

Tickets and info: From $12.50 at thewellnessshow.com

Now in its 27th year, The Wellness Show is once again offering up experts to help you do a better job at almost everything; from getting off carbs, getting your morning off to a good start, and, well, getting it on.

The latter on that list is the focus of the presentation: Mind-Knowing Sex is Mind-Blowing Sex: Using Mindfulness to Cultivate Sexual Desire(Feb. 3, 11 a.m.) as part of the two-day Women and Wellness Seminar Series.

Bringing that bit of Buddhism to the bedroom is University of B.C. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology professor and psychologist Dr. Lori A. Brotto, who is also the author of the book Better Sex Through Mindfulness.

Brotto’s book and Wellness Show presentation is the culmination of 15 years of incorporating mindfulness into her sexual health research and clinical work with patients.

Dr. Lori A. Brotto.


“It is just a powerful strategy for teaching people to be in the here and the now,” said Brotto.

“So many people with sexual problems talk about a disconnect with their body.”

Brotto’s accessible and interesting text — the book is not an expanded academic paper —  moves between hard research, anecdotal examples and practical exercises to help make the sexual experience more enjoyable and engaging for women.

Of course the big O (orgasm not Oprah) is a major player in the conversation about better sex.

“In every study we have done there’s been a significant improvement in ease of reaching orgasm and intensity. It makes a lot of sense,” said Brotto.

“What is orgasm? It is extension of arousal. Because in mindfulness you are really paying attention to the body sensations and really paying attention to when arousal is increasing and mounting and where in the body the arousal is. It’s completely logical then that orgasm would be a natural result of that.”

If you have been awake at all in the last few years you will have undoubtedly heard about mindfulness. The practice has surpassed its spiritual realm and set up shop in the mainstream.

“It (mindfulness) is not just something Buddhist monks do in a cave,” said Brotto.

“It’s hot Western health care, big time. Not just mental health care but also medical health care. Cancer agencies run mindfulness groups because of the data showing mindfulness slows tumour progression. Healthy heart programs run mindfulness  groups because of the affects of mindfulness on regulating heart patterns and arrhythmia, etc. So it has hit big time.

“I think one of the big strengths is that it isn’t just a passing fad because the science really stands up to the claims,” added Brotto.

“We have strong data that shows how it works and why it works and also where in the brain it works, too.”


You know what else works? Talking about sex. But sadly we don’t do it enough as women. There still seems to be a shyness or shame factor that stops women from seeking out conversations about sex.

Brotto says data shows men who develop erectile dysfunction do not hesitate to ask their family doctor what’s up with their non-performing penis. She says, after all, “we live in a culture that prizes men’s erections.”

One of the reasons women may balk at talking with their doctor about bad sex is that women often just accept it.

“I think women do need to be a bit more intolerant of difficulties at least as far as talking to health care providers and saying: ‘is this normal? Is there anything I can do? Or should I just accept it?” said Brotto.

“We have so much more comfort having sex than we have comfort talking about it.”

Brotto hopes her book and public appearances will nudge women towards more open dialogues about sex and female sexual dysfunction. It really can be a big factor to enjoying a healthy, happy life, she says.

“The sex conversation is critical, because sex isn’t just this isolated thing that people do recreationally. It is so heavily intertwined with sense of self, mood and relationship satisfaction, fundamentally self esteem,” said Brotto.

“We know countless studies have shown that when there are problems sexually all those different domains start to take a toll as well. It is a fundamental aspect of quality of life, and so in the same way we take very seriously our physical health we have to pay attention to sexual health, too.”

While Brotto is encouraging more women to talk about sex, she says health professionals may not be giving enough attention to the topic of female sexual dysfunction. But she hopes that as more women take ownership of their sex life and  ask questions more doctors will look for answers, and conversations will occur.

“But what we are not seeing though is an improvement in doctors talking about it. Doctors getting trained in it,” said Brotto.

“Accessibility to treatment that’s what we’re not seeing. So that will probably be a downstream affect but definitely the conversation around this and also around agency is important. Women saying: ‘I value my sex life. It’s important to me.’ And consent and conversations around pleasure are very important. That is where things like the #metoo movement have really benefited that conversation.”

Brotto hopes attendees of her lecture at the Wellness Show, and those who pick up her book, will benefit from her research.

“Sexual desire, all of the science has taught us it is responsive,” said Brotto.

“It’s something that can be cultivated. It is something that can emerge. It’s not that you are born with a set level of desire and you’re just sort of stuck with that for the rest of your life and so if it goes down you just have to learn to live with it.”

Brotto says we need to get through our heads that desire, like happiness, can be cultivated. So if we really pay attention in the moment in a non-judgmental fashion we can make our desire more responsive to our environment.

Brotto is just one of 100 or so guest speakers/chefs/fitness demos that are on hand for show goers. The Convention Centre floor is also teeming with around 250 vendors.

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