A Review of Birth in Argentina
Doulas: Since 2007, an amazing doula movement has been taking place. Prior to 2007, the doula figure was unknown. Now, DAR (Doulas of Argentina) is educating an increasing number of doulas.
Hospitals: As the demand for homebirth and natural birth increases, many hospitals are changing their medicalized way of assistance, becoming slightly more humanized and intervening less. However, many hospital births are still very violent and harmful. An initiative has been proposed to pay doctors more for vaginal births than for c-sections as a way to decrease the epidemic rate of c-section, which is 50–90% in private hospitals and 20–30% in public hospitals. This idea was applied in Brazil with the expected outcomes but, in some cases, doctors became negligent by forcing a vaginal birth when a c-section was needed.
Midwifery: Midwives are still working to pass a law that would update their competencies. This new law aims to legitimize all the tasks and skills midwives currently practice, including suturing episiotomies and tears, assisting births by their own responsibility, using medications and taking care of the newborn in the absence of a pediatrician. The struggle between OBs and midwives is still the same, and has even gotten worse in a medical system where midwives are meant to be the doctors’ assistants.
Midwifery Education: A private training course that promotes community and independent midwifery, and which bases midwifery on the continuity of care and homebirth, has been taking place in the last four years, and has resulted in young midwives establishing their own home offices to provide out-of-hospital care.
The midwifery education programme at Buenos Aires University is interested in developing a new project that would add holistic midwifery to midwifery education to broaden the knowledge base and prepare midwives to satisfy client’s demands. Midwives are often perceived as lacking research-based evidence and skills that provide natural comfort to women during labor. The new training would offer more “hands-off” techniques and preparation for attending out-of-hospital births safely, with equipment and a clear transport protocol. The new training project will be launched as a course for advanced students in June of this year, and if successful, may be included in the curricula in the future.
Birth Centers: All of the initiatives regarding legal, freestanding birth centers run by midwives or medical teams have unfortunately failed. People who feel unsafe birthing at home, uncomfortable and threatened at hospital, as well as people who don’t have a proper place to welcome their child or who live in more remote locations, are driving demand for freestanding birth centers. There are two hospitals that provide natural birth options (no drugs, free movement, no IVs, upright birth positions, freedom to eat and drink), delay shots and decline giving vitamin K to the newborn. One is a private hospital in Buenos Aires Province and the other one is a public hospital in Tucumán Province. It is a good start but there are many things yet to improve.
Birth Activism: In the last three to four years, celebrating World Respected Childbirth Week has been a good strategy to place birth issues on the political and media agendas, and to make the topic a public concern. The Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Humanization of Birth is very active in Argentina and stays in constant contact with Spanish organizations that advocate for childbirth rights.
— Marina Lembo
Independent homebirth midwife