Birthing Services

Last Updated: January 15, 2022 (check back for updates).

Any person who was planning to give birth in Yellowknife and has a due date between December 10th, 2021 and February 21st, 2022 must expect to travel outside Yellowknife to give birth. Please send any inquiries or questions regarding this to nthssafeedback@gov.nt.ca

Expectant parents impacted by this change, will now have care and services arranged in Edmonton. There may be limited options for birthing at other sites within the NWT based on capacity at that site and the birthing needs of the individual; this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Parents may choose a site outside the NWT, separate from the arranged Edmonton services, but will need to find their own care provider independently.

Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith birthing services are not impacted at this time.

In most cases, travel will be arranged for expectant parents during or before the 37th week of pregnancy. Important information about travel and process is included in the sections on this webpage, medical travel processes will be managed directly with Medical Travel.

Duration of stay will depend on how pregnancy progresses, individuals can expect to be in Edmonton for 3-5 weeks, but it may be longer or shorter.

The birthing person can access many resources in Edmonton to support the health and well-being of the expectant parent and baby.

Resources available will include prenatal care and education, peer-support, labour and birth, and post-partum care.

The Mom Care Docs, a group of family doctors who provide pregnancy and delivery care, have written a letter welcoming NWT and Nunavut patients and outlining some basic information and resources for persons traveling for birth services. Click here to download a copy of the letter.

Travel Preparation

NWT Health Card

Your newborn will be given an Alberta Health Card number after birth (ULI), but your baby will instead be covered by NWT Health Care when you return home. You will need to apply for a healthcare card on your return, so please see the information below to start the application process. All families should also fill out the paperwork for Canada Child Benefits.

No active NWT health care card: Individuals with no valid NWT health card or status card, or employer medical benefits, are responsible for paying for any medical travel needed. For information on obtaining an NWT healthcare card see the Department of Health and Social Services Website

Medical Travel Benefits

Individuals who are expecting to give birth should have received a phone call from Medical Travel to discuss their benefit entitlements or have been directed to their benefit plan provider to have those discussions. If you have not received a call or have further questions surrounding your upcoming medical travel, please reach out to your local medical travel office or benefit administrator.

The NTHSSA provides medical travel benefits for eligible NWT residents. In many cases individuals will have employer or alternate benefit plans that will cover the cost of travel; when someone does not have coverage through other plans the NWT Medical Travel Program provides financial support. The Medical Travel office can help people understand what benefits they qualify for or direct them to the correct place to coordinate their travel and accommodation coverage.

The NWT Medical Travel policy sets out the amount of funding individuals will receive to cover the cost of your medical travel.

  • Low income benefits include return airfare for the patient and approved non-medical escort and boarding home services (meals, accommodations and ground transportation in Edmonton).
  • Patients who have access to other supplementary benefits (i.e. Non-insured Health Benefits known as NIHB or Metis Health Benefits - MHB) receive the equivalent of Low Income benefits.
  • Patients (and their approved escorts) who do not qualify for low income benefits or other supplementary benefits receive subsidized airfare as well as reimbursements for:
    • Meals ($18 per person/per day)
    • Accommodation ($50 per person/per night)
    • Local ground transportation costs – between airport, accommodations, hospital, pharmacy.
    • There is a $400 co-payment for air travel for those who do not qualify for low-income or supplementary benefits, this fee can be waived through an exception if it is considered a financial hardship.
  • Benefits will cover costs for travel to the nearest center that offers care (Edmonton). If you decide to access care at another location, you are responsible for your own medical travel; however can be reimbursed for the equivalent of a flight to Edmonton and can still receive the daily accommodation and meal allowance reimbursement if you qualify.

Employer benefits

Many NWT employers provide medical travel benefits for their employees. Employers may also provide benefits for a spouse or dependents. For example:

Government of the Northwest Territories

  • Government of Canada
  • Northwest Territories Power Corporation
  • Yellowknife Catholic Schools
  • Yellowknife Education District No. 1

The employer sets the amount and the items they pay for and are different between employers.

For details, check with your employer, collective agreement, or employment contract.

  • Medical travel assistance will not be provided if a similar benefit is available through an employer.
  • Double coverage is not available if more than one family member is employed by the Government.

NIHB recipients

Indigenous residents with a valid Treaty or Status card can access medical travel benefits for extended travel benefits under the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program.

The GNWT Medical Travel office administers these benefits.

Metis Health Benefits

Indigenous Metis residents of the Northwest Territories can access a range of benefits through the Metis health benefits program. For more information see NWT Metis Health Benefits Program web page.

What to Bring Check List

The birthing person will need to bring supplies for themselves and baby. Here’s is a list of items to bring. For more suggestions, print or download this list from Alberta Health Services.

  • Government Issued Photo ID or two pieces of government issued non-photo ID for airline travel (driver’s license, status card, general identification card, passport health card, birth certificate, etc. check with your air carrier what is accepted before travel if you do not have standard ID). Before you leave, make sure your ID is up to date. If your ID is expired, you will not be allowed on the plane
  • NWT Health Care Card. Ensure it is not expired
  • NWT Proof of Vaccination Certificate or letter from your physician exempting you from vaccination if you are unvaccinated (will only apply to travel for medical reasons).
  • Health insurance information
  • Paperwork for appointments from Health Care Provider
  • Travel schedule
  • Appointment locations and times
  • Money to pay for meals, accommodations. See reimbursement section for information on compensation.
    • Note: if you qualify to stay at the boarding home and go with this option, then meals, accommodations, and transportation are included.
    • If you choose not to stay at the boarding home you may seek an advance of the accommodation and meal allowance if paying out of pocket and seeking reimbursement is a financial hardship.
  • Letter for airline from prenatal provider, indicating medical clearance to fly at this stage in pregnancy, this will be given to you by your NWT provider.
  • Letter for your return flight with baby from provider in Alberta confirming identity (may be airline travel requirement)

Suggestions for parent/caregiver hospital stay and travel:

  • Travel clothes
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap, shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Hairbrush, hair elastics
  • Unscented lotions
  • Maternity sanitary pads
  • Housecoat and slippers with rubber soles
  • Underwear, bras, socks
  • Comfortable clothing for daytime (such as sweatpants and t-shirt)
  • 1-2 nightgowns, preferably front opening for nursing
  • Going home clothes
  • Old t-shirt for labour
  • Laptop, tablet, books, and music
  • Chargers for electronic devices
  • Masks and hand sanitizer

For baby’s hospital stay and travel:

  • Car seat
  • Sleepers/swaddles
  • Cotton onesies
  • Warm blanket and receiving blankets
  • Diapers, disposable wipes, and diaper cream
  • Warm clothing for cold weather (toque, snowsuit, etc.)
  • Formula if you do not intend or are unable to breast feed.
  • Sheet/mattress cover for baby’s crib

Suggestions for partner’s hospital stay and travel:

  • Travel clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Swimsuit (for helping mom in the shower during labour)
  • Sleepwear
  • Masks and hand sanitizer

Options other than Edmonton

We acknowledge that the disruption to families related to the current reduction in obstetrical services at Stanton Territorial Hospital is very difficult and stressful.  NTHSSA remains committed to ongoing evaluation of available territorial resources that may allow for options other than Edmonton for those due to deliver babies in the coming weeks. This includes both midwifery services in Ft Smith and Hay River, as well as obstetrical services in Inuvik Regional Hospital.

Transfer of prenatal care and birth to one of the NWT sites (Ft Smith, Hay River, or Inuvik) involves a review of the individual clinical circumstances and a discussion between the patient and member of the clinical team. The ability to offer the option of birthing in any of these regions is dependent on both clinical factors and the capacity of the health care teams in these regions, who are also providing ongoing services for those who ordinarily deliver there.

Anyone who is interested in pursuing the option of birth in Inuvik, Ft Smith or Hay River should to get in touch with their current obstetrical care provider to determine if they may be candidates for a transfer to one of these sites. Not every case is appropriate for delivery in these communities, and there may not be capacity to accommodate all those who are interested in this option – but we do encourage you to speak with your care provider.

Traveling to a site other than Edmonton outside the NWT

If individuals choose to travel to a site in the south beyond Edmonton they will be required to coordinate their ongoing medical care in a location of their choice. The NTHSSA is only able to coordinate transfer of medical care to Edmonton as this is our established referral pathway. While we cannot refer you to other providers/locations outside of Edmonton we will provide any required documentation or medical history for your transfer of care to another location.

Prenatal Care Supports and Services

Resources are available to support the health and well-being of the birthing person. There can be many emotions during this time, and it is important to have access to mental health support as well. If something does not feel right or for any concerns, individuals should call the 811 Health Link at 1-866-408-5456 for advice 24/7 while you are in Alberta. If you are in the NWT before or after you give birth you can access services through your regular healthcare provider or any of the available mental wellness and counselling supports in the NWT.

Physicians will refer each expectant person to a clinic in Edmonton that offers prenatal care. This may be at a specific obstetrician’s office or one of the clinics below, specific details will be provided to you.

In addition to prenatal care appointments, there are other supports and services available expectant individuals. Some of these may require the user of the service to pay, others are available free of charge:

  • Healthy Beginnings: Free Prenatal Classes offered once or twice weekly via Zoom to share information and ask questions about what to expect during labour and birth, how to care for a newborn and birthing parent in the first few days after birth. To join classes, individuals need a laptop, tablet or cell phone with Wi-Fi to access the classes. 
    • Call 780-735-3877 to register.
  • Health For Two (Hf2): A free program for an expecting parent that needs extra support during pregnancy and for the first two months postpartum. Services include pregnancy and parenting education, mental health and addictions, and support to access community resources.
  • Birthworkers: Birthworkers (or doulas) provide emotional, physical, and spiritual support, advocacy and information to expectant parents and families throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The Northern Birthwork Collective is a team of Birthworkers that provides programming and services for pregnancy people in the NWT.
    • A list of Edmonton-based doula and midwifery services has been compiled by Northern Birthwork Collective and can be found here.
  • Gobacare – Health Navigation Services for Northerners in Edmonton: Melinda Laboucan is from the NWT and operates Gobacare and provide services to clients who need to travel to Edmonton to receive care, Goba is here to support them in their journeys through health system navigation and advocacy, wellness, community connections, and adherence to treatment plans. For more information visit https://gobacare.ca/
  • Prenatal Education Resources

Hospital/Birthing Services

All expectant person need to know the signs that it is time to go to the birth centre or hospital, how to get to the hospital, what entrance to go to when arriving at the hospital, and what supports are available during labour and birth. 

Because of COVID-19 protocols and practices visitation or support people in hospital may be limited, see current Alberta guidelines on visitation and support people. Current guidance (as of November 15) allows for one designated support person on-site during birth. Additional support may be considered case-by-case and will be site/hospital specific.

Edmonton Contacts and Locations of Hospitals

Royal Alexandra Hospital
(Lois Hole Hospital for Women)
10240 Kingsway NW
Edmonton, AB
T5H 3V9
780-735-4111
www.ahs.ca/rah
Enter through Robbins Pavilion when labour begins.

Misericordia Community Hospital (Covenant Health)
16940 87 Ave NW
Edmonton, AB
T5R 4H5
780-735-2000
www.covenanthealth.ca
Go directly to the Emergency Department when labour begins.

What to expect for your postpartum hospital stay

  • After giving birth, individuals will be transferred to the postpartum care unit, and can usually expect to stay in the hospital for 24-36 hours following a vaginal birth or 3-4 days following a caesarean birth.  
  • They will be cared for by a care team that may include some or all of the following: birthing person, family of the birthing person, doctors/residents, nurse practitioners, nurses, spiritual and cultural care, and others.
  • A lactation consultant may also be available to provide support in the hospital. A lactation consultant is a care provider who has received specialized training to support families to breastfeed and safely feed their baby, especially if there are challenges.
  • During their stay, a care team will take steps to prepare the parent and baby for discharge. Discharge from the hospital typically happens around 11 am each day.
    • To extend medical travel coverage until your public health postpartum follow-up in Edmonton (or any longer stay that may be required for medical reasons), individuals will need to have a letter from the healthcare provider. For more information, contact the Northern Health Services Network Nurses at 780-735-5763.
  • Before leaving the hospital, the baby will have to be in an infant car seat.

Post-partum Care

Individuals will speak to a nurse within 24 hours of discharge, and will have a post-partum home visit within 48 hours of discharge from an Edmonton hospital.

Strong feelings can be normal for the first two weeks. If a parent feels overwhelmed or needs support, they can contact their health care provider for more support. For patients in Alberta or transitioning from Alberta to the NWT contact the Northern Health Services Network at
780-735-5763. For patients in the NWT, contact your regular healthcare provider, local health centre or review the available list of mental health and wellness supports.

Individuals should know how to access newborn care essential items such as an infant car seat, diapers, clothes, blanket, and safe and firm sleep space.

Post-Partum Supports and Services

Once individuals are discharged from the hospital, there are post-partum supports and resources that are available while in Edmonton. These include:

Healthy Beginnings Postpartum Program

  • Public Health will contact individuals within 24 hours of dischargefrom the hospital and make arrangements to visit the parent and baby within 48-72 hours. Before leaving the hospital, parents should confirm that the health care provider has their phone number and address.
  • This visit usually takes about 1-hour and may help to feel more confident about baby’s health before the journey home.
  • For more information, call the Healthy Beginnings Hotline at 780-413-7990.

Birthworkers: Birthworkers (or doulas) provide emotional, physical, and spiritual support, advocacy and information to expectant parents and families throughout pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. The Northern Birthwork Collective is a team of birthworkers that provides programming and services for pregnancy people in the NWT.

  • A list of Edmonton-based doula and midwifery services has been compiled by NBC and can be found here.

Post-Partum Education/Resources

Infant Safer Sleep (in a hotel/accommodations)

Safe sleep includes things like where baby sleeps, their sleeping position, the type of crib or bed, the type of mattress, and the environment. The Canadian Pediatric Society advises that for the first 6 months, the safest place for baby to sleep is on their back, in a crib, cradle or bassinet that is in your room. Having baby close may help protect against SIDS, and can make nighttime feedings easier.

Finding a safe space for baby to sleep while travelling can be difficult. Here are some tips for safer sleep in a hotel room or other accommodations:

  • Many hotels and other accommodations will provide guests with a free crib upon request. It is best to ask when booking. Individual should confirm that the crib meets safety standards and are in good repair, with no broken or missing parts, loose hardware, or padding other than the manufacturer’s mattress (AAP).
  • Hotels may not always have crib sized sheets, so individuals may want to bring one with them.
  • The crib should be positioned away from cords, lamps and TVs or other objects that could fall.
  • Portable cribs, playpens, strollers and car seats are not approved for infant sleep.
  • Adult beds are not designed to keep babies safe and are often raised, which increases the risk for falls.
  • More information can be found here.

Soothing a Crying Baby

The transition to parenthood can be a stressful time, especially when it involves unplanned travel. All babies cry to communicate that they need something. It may be that they are hungry, gassy, have a wet diaper, are sick or in pain, or they are lonely. Sometimes they may not stop crying no matter what you do. If parents are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, it is important to take a break and never to shake your baby. Making a plan to cope with crying can help. This video also shows some strategies: Coping When Your Baby Can't Stop Crying

Transition to Home

Self-Isolation Plans and Application

All NWT residents and non-residents travelling outside the NWT must follow self-isolation requirements. All travelers (adults AND children) need to submit a Self-Isolation Plan (SIP) regardless of vaccination status. The Self-Isolation Plan Form can be found by clicking here.

Submitting Self-Isolation Plans ahead of time will reduce stress and make travel home easier. However SIPs can be submitted at any time, including on arrival back in the NWT.

For help, call 8-1-1 (in NWT only) or 1-833-378-8297 (outside NWT)

Isolation requirements are as follows:

  • No self-isolation for fully vaccinated travellers and household members who did not travel (regardless of vaccination status), provided they are not sharing accommodations with travellers who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals travelling with unvaccinated individuals will be required to isolate upon return to the NWT for the duration of the least vaccinated traveller if they live in the same household. However the Office of the Chief Public health Officer will be considering exemptions from isolation for newborns returning due to the transfer of care to Alberta but this will be issued on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the vaccination status of household members. Please include information in your isolation plan submission that you were in Edmonton to give birth due to this service change.
  • Fully vaccinated travellers will be able to return directly to small communities, but they must complete a Day 1 and Day 8 COVID-19 test.
  • Returning residents who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must self-isolate in a hub community (Inuvik, Yellowknife, Hay River or Fort Smith).
  • Partially vaccinated can return to small communities after a negative day 8 test.
  • Unvaccinated can return to small communities after a negative day 10 test.
  • Individuals who refuse testing on day 8/10 must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Residents of Fort Simpson and Norman Wells may self-isolate in their home communities. For more information see Self-Isolation in Small Communities.

For more information, individuals should click here or email protectnwt@gov.nt.ca or call 8-1-1 (in NWT only) or 1-833-378-8297 (outside NWT). The call centre can provide help and advice about how to fill out applications for Self-Isolation Plans for parents and newborns . The call centre is available 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., 7 days a week.

Cultural safety and anti-racism

The NTHSSA is committed to offering cultural safe and anti-racism programs and services. Indigenous clients can access resources while in Edmonton.

Additional Resources

Important paperwork

External website links

What to if you do not have an active NWT health care card

  • Individuals with no valid NWT health card or status card, or employer medical benefits, are responsible for paying for any medical travel needed. For information on obtaining an NWT healthcare card see the Department of Health and Social Services Website:

Additional Support

Jordan’s Principle

  • Jordan's Principle aims to make sure all First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. Funding can help with a wide range of health, social and educational needs, including the unique needs that First Nations Two-Spirit and LGBTQQIA children and youth and those with disabilities may have
  • Jordan’s Principle staff can take requests from parents to help meet their children’s unmet needs.
  • Contact (NWT/Nunavut): 1-866-848-5846
  • sac.principedejordanrn-nrjordansprinciple.isc@canada.ca

Inuit Child First Initiative

  • All Inuit children, no matter where they live in Canada, can request funding through the Inuit Child First Initiative. They must be:
    • recognized by an Inuit land claim organization; and
    • under the age of majority in their province/territory of residence
    • This initiative, under Jordan’s Principle, allows parents of Inuit children to request accommodations and support meeting their children’s unmet needs.
    • For details see the Government of Canada website.