Expecting moms poorly served in rural Yukon

Roxanne Ladue was hoping for a girl. And who could blame her? The expecting mom had been sharing a hotel with her husband Brian and their four sons…

Roxanne Ladue was hoping for a girl.

And who could blame her?

The expecting mom had been sharing a hotel with her husband Brian and their four sons for nearly two weeks.

The Ladue family is from Watson Lake where there is a hospital but no maternity ward.

So, for the fifth time, the family packed up the car and drove five hours to Whitehorse — the only hospital in the Yukon where women can come to give birth.

“It’s a safety issue,” said government spokesperson Dennis Senger.

It’s a question of having the doctors available. There are specialists in Whitehorse that can’t be in every community.

“That’s why they’re expected to come in. To make sure everything goes well.”

“There seems to be a memory loss in the modern era,” said Senger.

“People have forgotten how dangerous (childbirth) is; we take it for granted.”

Even though her due date was last Saturday, Ladue expected to stay a little longer.

“I haven’t had any of my kids on my due date. They’ve all been 42 or 41 weeks. Then we’re here for three or four weeks, in a hotel.”

“It’s stressful,” she said.

And it could be this stress that caused her children to be overdue.

Her doctor told her that many of the women coming from the more distant communities, such as Dawson City and Watson Lake, experience the same problem.

The stressful final trip isn’t the only visit to Whitehorse that expecting mothers have to make.

Prenatal monitoring can be done by nurses in the communities, but moms still need to make at least three trips to Whitehorse to see a doctor.

They then need to arrive two weeks before their due date.

As a First Nations person, Ladue’s hotel bills are covered under non-insured health benefits.

Everyone else needs to pay for a hotel or go to the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, she said.

However, the women’s centre isn’t an option for many families.

“You can stay there and your husband can stay with you, but your children can’t,” she said.

Even with First Nations benefits, Ladue has been told that as soon as she goes into labour her hotel room is no longer covered.

“If you go into labour at 4 o’clock in the morning, who’s thinking about packing up their stuff and checking out?”

Ladue knows of at least five other expecting mothers who will be coming to Whitehorse this month from Watson Lake alone.

Watson Lake used to have a specialist but the doctor has since moved away and now only returns every few months, she said.

One possible solution to the issue could be midwives.

For the last two years, there has been a movement to get midwifery accepted in the territory.

There are currently only a few practicing midwives in the territory, such as Heather Ashthorn who owns and operates the Almost Home Maternity Centre in Whitehorse, which offers prenatal and postpartum services.

However the Yukon government doesn’t fund midwife services and they don’t come cheap.

Private midwife care will set a family back $2,500.

 Ladue suggested that the First Nations and government come together to build a facility, so that families such as hers can have a place to stay while they wait to give birth.

She also recommended providing programming for the family, or at least a children’s playground.

Trying to keep four boys from getting bored has been expensive in the Yukon’s capital city, Ladue said.

“A lot of people can’t afford to come to Whitehorse for a month at a time.”

Then there’s the loss of work time.

Brian Ladue is a contractor in Watson Lake, and the two-week trip to Whitehorse is affecting his job.

 “It’s the most difficult part of your pregnancy,” said Ladue.

“Being away from home and cooped up in a hotel room only makes it worse.”

(Ladue gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Tuesday.)

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