Giving birth in Montreal

As a mom who has had two delivery experiences in Montreal, I found it to be quite the surprising adventure. Who would have thought that finding a doctor I like, a hospital I am comfortable with, and easy access to variable delivery options would have been so difficult in Montreal?

As someone who really needs to feel surrounded by the right people, the right atmosphere and positive energy, I found myself searching for places, people, and answers for a long time. Until now, I am not sure I really found what I was looking for, but I figured I could at least share what I know and have been able to figure out. It might help other moms in Montreal who are now going through the adventure of preparing for their delivery experience in this city.

I had first quickly realized that I didn’t want to give birth in a birthing centre. Although I believe that midwives should be part of staff of all hospitals, and although I wanted to give birth as naturally as possible (no epidural and a minimum of medical intervention), I chose to give birth at a hospital because I didn’t want to take any risks in case something went wrong. This also explains my hospital choice at the end.

So first, a Dr. … Ask around, tell people you respect and admire that you are looking for one; chances of their Dr. being one you could mesh with are higher. Check reviews online and make sure they have more positive than negative feedback. Most doctors will not necessarily be there to assist you during labour but figure out anyway if you are ok with that and if not, one of your criteria might be that your doctor shows up to all patients’ deliveries. The doctor that will follow-up your pregnancy is associated to a hospital and you will have “no choice” but to go to that hospital. This is of course if we want to go by the system. Otherwise, show up wherever you would like, without a follow-up doctor to claim for your pregnancy and they will have no choice but to take you in; with attitude of course.

For me, it was important to find a doctor that was open to the variety of options I was considering for my birth experience. It was important for me to find a doctor who was comfortable with a more natural process and who was able to answer all my questions with care and time. Did I find that? First time around, partially. A friend I look up to and mom of four referred me to The Herzl, a family practice clinic associated to the Jewish General Hospital. Her doctor of course took no more patients, so, I was placed with a resident. I was really uncomfortable with that at first and found it revolting that I pretty much had no choice but to be with a resident. We live in Canada people!! But I quickly accepted the facts and grew to like the resident because he took the time to answer all my questions. I was happy that the clinic was a team of family doctors. So, I was followed by a family Dr and a family doctor delivered my babies (OBGYNs are always in the ward if needed anyways). I preferred a family doc to an OBGYN because I was looking for a less medically-focused experience; and this clinic provided a good balance in that respect (that doesn’t mean that the birthing ward at the Jewish is aligned with that mentality). One thing I didn’t like however was that, following protocol, the resident had me fill out a birthing plan, which would be consulted by the nurses when I go into delivery. Having put my all into that plan, I was extremely disappointed to notice that the hospital nurses gave little importance to the priorities laid out in the plan. So, impression given by the doctor at the clinic doesn’t always match reality in the hospital. At least the team of doctors you get are from the Herzl, but it will be whoever is on call that night or day. On another positive note, the Herzl feels like a family clinic where people get to know you and your kids. The head nurse is especially great, Ros. Some of the secretaries are the stereotype Montrealer clinic nazi-secretaries who make you feel they rule the game and  love the power, but you learn to appeal to their better nature.

The hospital… man oh man did I go around visiting hospitals while being super pregnant. I only looked into the English network of hospitals. I didn’t want Ste-Justine (a friend of mine had a bad experience and I was just not attracted to the place) and LaSalle is too far for me (I was told by a few that it has a good birthing ward). So, I looked into the Jewish, Royal Vic, and St-Mary’s. I called and asked around about more hospitals but decided that these were the main ones worth visiting while carrying a huge belly (at this point, I was 7 months pregnant and still thinking I could find a ‘real’ doctor vs a resident and a hospital I like!). After my first experience at the Jewish, I was traumatized by some of the nursing team members and promised myself I would never step a foot in there again. Very briefly, the nurse didn’t answer my requests, made me sit when I asked to stay standing for pain relief, let me vomit on the floor because she wouldn’t believe I was nauseous and therefore didn’t bring me a container, was rude to my family and to the resident doctor… I can go on. Most important thing to know is that she no longer works there. Goodbye!

But the Dr (not resident!) I had at the Herzl second time around convinced me to stay with him by month 6 or 7, and promised me he would come to my delivery and make sure the nurses were sensitive to my first experience. He was the one on call during my first delivery and I loved him, so I had asked him to be my first baby’s family doctor. He therefore followed my second pregnancy a year and a half later and ended up giving birth to my second as well. He is their family doctor.

Here is a summary of my personal findings:

Rooms and ambiance Medical and delivery equipment Nursing team Feedback and reputation
The Jewish Ordinary cold medical atmosphere with ugly curtains and colours. Post-partum ward is not very charming either but plain ordinary. Most equipped with specialized medical facilities for you and your baby in case of problems. Bathtubs don’t all work in case you want to sit in bath during labour (or I was just refused the bathtub because the nurse didn’t feel like prepping it). You take your chance – some nurses are amazing, some are unbearable Most people I know who had been there had a +ve experience. I had both a very –ve one and a +ve one. It has the reputation of being one of the 2 best performing hospitals for delivery. Depending on the Dr you get, it can be a very medically driven experience, or not much so. I guess you are still at a hospital nonetheless.
Royal Vic Ordinary cold medical atmosphere. Post-partum ward known to be very old and in need of renos but have not visited it. Most equipped with specialized medical facilities for you and your baby in case of problems. Known for dealing best with sensitive pregnancies. You take your chance. It has the reputation of being ‘the best’ for delivery, although I would argue that statement because it is only claimed so due to the fact that it is the hospital that deals with sensitive cases. Therefore, very medically driven.
St-Mary’s New rooms, warm atmosphere, lots of light (during the day). Same for post-partum ward. Not the most equipped with specialized medical facilities in case of problems (I think that they lack one machine in particular). It is a couple of blocks away from the Jewish though…Hospital with the most options available as to the delivery experience: big bathtub, yoga balls, etc. Generally friendly and caring It is known to be the best hospital to go to for a mentally positive birthing experience. Most moms I know who went there had a +ve experience.

If anyone has anything to add to this collection of observations please do! As much help we can provide to new moms is best 🙂

Just so you know, my first delivery ended going completely opposite to my plan. I took the epidural (after long hours of contractions, the nurse pretty much cornered me into taking it – yes the same nurse who is not there anymore); I was induced because contractions were not getting intense, the Dr had to perforate in order to get all my water out because it seemed that it broke but was sitting in a way that was keeping it in; I had a 3rd degree rip, and the Dr had to help the baby out by cupping her because I pushed for almost 5 hours and although her head would almost come out, she would always get sucked back in. And, as I mentioned earlier, the first half of the 20-hour delivery was accompanied by horrible nurses. But then the morning shift came in and hope was back. The Dr was amazing, the resident was so attentive, and the nurses were champions.

The second time around, I gave birth 3 to 4 weeks early; delivery was quick and didn’t have time to get the epidural even if I would have wanted to; it hurt like crazy and I thought I was going to die (really) but the nurse was another champion and without her, I might have completely broken down. My sweet Dr. came to deliver me, as promised, and was very supportive as well.

On a final note, I would advise to be open to however the events roll out once D day arrives. Take things as they come and make the best decisions you can make as the options fold out. Never forget that you are Queen of the moment and you can request anything you want and express whatever you feel like expressing, without worrying about being too demanding, picky, or judged. What is most important is that you feel you can listen to your intuition, trust that intuition, act by it, and not be afraid to say ‘no’ or ‘I would like to insist on this’. You are Queen.

Listen to your body and trust what it says. You will see. It is bigger than you.


7 thoughts on “Giving birth in Montreal

  1. Hello. you wrote : “Otherwise, show up wherever you would like, without a follow-up doctor to claim for your pregnancy and they will have no choice but to take you in; with attitude of course.” So if I have no doctor, They have to admit me into hospital anyway? Thank you

    • Hi Mika,
      I had not logged into my wordpress for a while and did not realize I had messages. I hope all went well and that you had a positive experience.

      And yes, by law, they are not supposed to refuse you.


  2. Hi, would u be so kind as to advise the name & contact details of the doc u had? I would like to contact him. I am 27 weeks now, currently outside canada, but will fly by 34 weeks back for delivery. This is my second delivery. First was outside canada and i’m afraid i wont find any doc to take me so late..

    Thanks in advance, Elena

    • Hi Elena,
      I just saw your message – I am sorry for the late reply. My amazing doctor was Thomas Brin d’Amour from the Herzl clinic. But he has since moved practice to Joliette and I am not sure if he still does the one day per week at the Herzl he did in transition… But I would recommend him anytime. A great balance between family medicine and natural medical philosophy. He is supportive and pragmatic.

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