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Keywords:

  • rural obstetrics;
  • rural health services;
  • access to maternity services

The closure of many local maternity services has given rise to contemporary realities of care for many rural parturient women in Canada, which, in turn, determines their experience of birth. To date, we do not have an understanding of the realities influencing the birthing experiences of rural parturient women. This qualitative investigation explored these issues with women from four rural British Columbian communities through semistructured interviews and focus groups. Women in this study articulated four realities that influenced the nature of their experience of birth, including geographic realities, the availability of local health service resources, and the influence of parity and financial implications of leaving the community to give birth. When these realities were incongruent with participants' needs in birth, participants developed strategies of resistance to mitigate the dissonance. Strategies included trying to time the birth at the referral hospital by undergoing an elective induction and seasonal timing of pregnancies to minimize the risk of winter travel. Some women showed up at the local hospital in an advanced stage of labor to avoid transfer to a referral center, or in some instances, had an unassisted homebirth.