The first right of a pregnant woman is the choice of prenatal care she wishes to receive during pregnancy according to her values and needs, whether it be with a medical doctor or with a midwife. When you’ve made your choice, that professional has a duty to properly inform you on the progress of your pregnancy, labor and delivery in the different places when you can choose to give birth as well as all the treatments and drugs offered, their effects and limitations and what their alternatives are so you can make an informed decision.
If you feel that the professional of your choice does not meet your needs or expectations, you have a right to seek a second opinion or even to change caregivers at any time during your pregnancy.
IMPORTANT: Throughout your pregnancy, you have a right to see all the information that is written in your file and to get clear and complete answers to your questions.
The rights of a pregnant woman at work
The Canadian Human Rights Act protects pregnant women against all forms of discrimination arising from the pregnancy including:
- A negative treatment by your employer;
- The refusal to hire or offer a promotion;
- Termination of employment.
In case your duties and the rules of your workplace don’t meet your needs, or that the work you do can be dangerous for you or your baby, the law says that your employer must adjust your working conditions to reduce or eliminate those discriminatory effects. To make this request, you must obtain a certificate from a qualified physician that states the duration of the potential risk and the activities you have to avoid.
Days off provided by law for pregnant women
- Preventive withdrawal and reassignment: When your employer can’t adjust your working conditions to reduce potential risks for you or your baby, you may be entitled to receive a Preventive withdrawal and reassignment certificate that allows you time off from work (CSST in Quebec).
- Special maternity leave: If you or your child’s health is at risk, you are entitled to special maternity leave which allows you to take an unpaid leave of 3 weeks. This period may be extended with proof from a qualified physician.
- Maternity leave: Maternity leave gives you 18 weeks off without pay and you may start those 16 weeks before the expected date of childbirth.
- Parental leave: The law provides you with parental leave which gives you access to 52 weeks of unpaid leave after the birth of your baby.
- Attention! Some workers are not covered by the act respecting labour standards.
Obviously, you can take time off work without pay as often as necessary for your prenatal care appointments. You simply have to notify your employer as soon as you know the date of your next appointment.
General rights of a pregnant woman
The Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms prohibits any kind of discrimination against a person, including pregnant women, so you are protected wherever you go during pregnancy and have the rights to visit public places, restaurants, stores or even obtain housing without discrimination.
Rights during childbirth
Just like during pregnancy, you have rights when you give birth. You can discuss these with the professional who follows you during your pregnancy, and we also recommend the use of a birth plan during the birth so the people around you know what your rights are:
- To experience labor at your own pace and without unwanted procedures;
- To be accompanied by the people of your choice during labor and delivery and to limit the number of people present at the birth;
- To refuse to be examined by students;
- To be informed of the reasons for all procedures suggested and the possible side effects for you and your baby, to refuse any procedure if you don’t deem it necessary;
- To eat and drink during the whole birth;
- To push and give birth in the position of your choice.
What should you do if your rights are not respected?
If you think your rights aren’t being respected, the first thing to do is to contact the Complaints Committee of the institution in question to make a formal complaint. You can also contact the following resources:
- The Members’ committee of the institution
- Labour laws standards
- The Centre for assistance and support of complaints in your area
- The Coalition Naissance-Renaissance
- The Quebec Public Health Association
Sources : Educaloi – Le congé de maternité, le congé de paternité et le congé parental, Commission des normes du travail du Québec – Congé de maternité, Ressources humaines et développement des compétences du Canada – Normes du travail – Réaffectation et congé liés à la maternité, Commission canadienne des droits de la personne – Politiques durant la grossesse, Protégez-vous – Grossesse et accouchement, Association pour la santé publique du Québec – Dépliant « Grossesse et accouchement – Droit des femmes », Educaloi – La discrimination en matière de logement.