There has been a precipitous decline in the number of rural communities across Canada providing local maternity care. The evidence suggests that the outcome for newborns may be worse as a result. There is also an emerging understanding of the significant physiological and psychosocial consequences for rural parturient women. Because they cannot plan for birth with any certainty, many of them experience labour and delivery in referral communities as a crisis event fraught with anxiety. The literature suggests that, within a regionalized perinatal system, small maternity services can offer safe care provided that an efficient mechanism for intrapartum transfer has been established. This commentary provides recommendations for sustainable maternity care that will meet the needs of women, their families, and maternity caregivers in rural communities. The recommendations stem from a rural maternity care program of research, consultations with communities, and review of relevant epidemiologic and policy literature.