Giving women what they want in Peru

The New York Times last week had an article about a clinic in rural Peru that was able to draw more women in by using traditional childbirth practices.

When the women were asked why they didn’t want to give birth at the local clinic, they explained what all of us birth activists know well: they didn’t want to give birth alone, on a table, with providers who didn’t speak their language.

They started by asking people in the community about traditional ways of giving birth, and about what the clinic was doing wrong. They got an earful. Workers at the clinic did not speak the local language, Quechua. They treated patients brusquely, and barred husbands and other relatives from the delivery room. They forced women to wear hospital gowns instead of their own clothes, and made them give birth lying on a table instead of squatting. They threw away the placenta instead of giving it to the family to bury in a warm place.

We know these things. The women is this community were lucky, because the providers had to change their habits to meet their desires–because the women just weren’t coming to their clinic.

Working with local people, members of a nongovernmental group, Health Unlimited, changed delivery services at a clinic in the Santillana district. They made sure Quechua was spoken, let relatives stay and help, set up delivery rooms so that women could squat and made other changes based on local traditions.

By 2007, 83 percent of births were taking place at the clinic. In a report in this month’s Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the authors say that the project in Ayacucho shows that indigenous women with little formal education want professional help giving birth, and will use it if they are treated with respect at clinics.

Why are we building clinics and funding initiatives that have women’s desires and needs as an afterthought? Maybe stories like these will start to change the paradigm, cause the current model really sucks.

h/t to Maria Elena for the link

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