The MUHC Birthing Centre delivers top-quality care

The successor of Montreal’s University Lying-In Hospital, which opened in 1843, it’s a place where the lights never go out, and the action never stops. It’s also where new parents Ian Popple, a member of the Public Affairs team at the MUHC, and CTV on-air reporter Annie DeMelt, had their first child, on a cold winter morning earlier this year.

“We chose the Birthing Centre at the Royal Vic because of its long history and great reputation,” says DeMelt. “The decision also gave us peace of mind knowing that this is the place to be if any complications arise.”

While the Birthing Centre is open to all parents, it is also a tertiary care centre — the place other Montreal hospitals refer their high-risk cases—with adult and neo-natal intensive care units nearby. There is a continuous physician and nursing presence in the Birthing Centre, which also has two operating rooms and its own generators, to ensure power is never lost. Most importantly, MUHC specialists from virtually every field of medicine are on-call around the clock, ready to assist with any patient emergency.

“At any time, about 15 to 20 per cent of our patients are high risk,” says Luisa Ciofani, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Obstetrics and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at the Centre. “For example, if the mother has a heart condition or has been diabetic for many years, she will need close follow-up and monitoring. Mothers in pre-term labour may also come to us, because we have the resources to look after premature babies.”

How it Began

For DeMelt, the birthing experience started, as it so often does, without warning and at an inconvenient moment. She was picking up a decaf coffee when her water broke—a sign that labour is imminent.

“I skipped the coffee and headed home to pick up my overnight bag,” DeMelt says with a laugh. “But we weren’t sure whether we should head to the hospital right away, because I still wasn’t having contractions. In the end, we decided to go.”

By early afternoon, when contractions still hadn’t started, her team decided to induce labour. At that point, DeMelt was optimistically imagining she would become a mother by early evening.

It's called "labour" for a reason

“Our doctor told us, ‘Don’t expect anything soon, this is a long process’,” DeMelt recalls. “And it was. They don’t call it labour for nothing. But our team was exceptional and inspired confidence. We met a lot of them, because we were there for three shift changes.”

Dr. Tania Azar, the resident who assisted in the delivery of DeMelt’s baby, agrees with the sense of professionalism and teamwork perceived by patients and visitors to the Birthing Centre. “The Birthing Centre is a great place to work,” says Dr. Azar. “We have a wonderful team of physicians and nurses who work to ensure the best patient-care. Our goal is always to have healthy moms and healthy babies.”

Pain relief options

Baby Logan announces his arrival—one of over 3,700 babies born at the MUHC each year. From left to right: Nurses Marie-Pierre Lebreux and Oumalker Mohamed, patient Annie DeMelt, baby Logan, Dr. Tania Azar and Dr. William goldsmith. Nurse Souad Zaaboul, who was also part of the team, is not present.

“On top of being incredibly competent, everyone had great bedside manners,” says DeMelt. “They were very sympathetic and gentle. When they saw I needed something for pain relief, and was resisting, they offered me a range of options. Eventually I chose to have an epidural, and things went very smoothly after that.”

“Complications develop in only a small proportion of cases,” says Ciofani. “On the rare occasions when this happens, we are good at helping families—and each other—through it.”

The Centre is also going into its third year of a program implemented throughout Quebec called MORE OB, which stands for Managing Obstetric Risk Efficiently, a quality assurance program that helps everyone in the Centre work more effectively as a team.

This story has a happy ending. At three minutes past three in the morning, Annie DeMelt gave birth to a baby boy—Logan Jack. “We were moved to Post Partum, where a range of tests and physical examinations were conducted—blood, eye, skin, hearing and so on—right away,” recalls Popple. “They check everything, because most families are only there for a day after delivery and most, like us, are complete beginners who need a little advice and encouragement.”

Less than 48 hours after arriving, DeMelt, Popple, and one-day-old Logan left the Post Partum to start life as a family. After all the fatigue, excitement and drama, DeMelt recalls one thing above all else: “The most memorable part was when I finally got to see his face,” she says. “I’d had dreams about what he would look like. I had spent months wondering about him, and finally I could say—it’s YOU.”


The MUHC Birthing Centre: Past, Present and Future


1843: University Lying-in Hospital opens

1887: Changes name to Montreal Maternity Hospital

1926: The Royal Victoria Hospital inherits functions of Montreal Maternity Hospital

1994: Royal Victoria Hospital Birthing Centre opens



  • 3,734 births in the past year
  • Average stay after spontaneous vaginal birth: 36 to 48 hours
  • Average stay after cesarean birth: 72 hours
  • Proportion of high-risk patients to total: 15-20 per cent


  • 20 obstetricians, including seven maternal fetal medicine specialists
  • One nurse manager and two assistant nurse managers
  • 68 registered nurses
  • Four licensed practical nurses
  • 9 patient attendants
  • 7 clerical staff


When the new MUHC Glen Campus opens in 2014, it will be the only facility of its kind in Quebec with adult and pediatric sub specialties in-house. High risk patients will be treated in the same facility, so mothers and babies won’t need to be separated. The MUHC Birthing Centre: Past, Present and Future