Birth & Midwifery in Philippines
Resources for parents and practitioners

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Cecilia SantosCecilia Santos is Consultant for Health Concerns, Philippines Department of the Interior and Local Government. The position is the intermediary between the Department of Health and associations of nurses and midwives. She pioneered the national Midwifery Agenda, which led to the creation and institutionalization of the Philippine League of Government Midwives, Inc., currently the largest body of professional midwives in the country with chapters nationwide and with a local chapter among the professional midwives working in Hong Kong. She played a key role in passage of the Midwifery Act of 1992.

Cecilia previously served as Assistant Secretary, Department of Health; Member of the Board of Midwifery; Population Program Manager in the San Juan office; and was the founder of the Philippine League of Government Midwives. She has Masters in Public Health and Government Management, a BS in Business Administration and is a 1975 graduate of the Midwifery course at Ortañez University.


Training in the Philippines [March 2011]

I’m doing my training while living and working in the slums in the Philippines, serving women living in poverty. The biggest things I’ve learned so far: birth abuse is alive and well in large city hospitals, stemming from over-worked and underpaid staff and a lack of compassion for the birthing women. The effects of malnutrition have got to be one of the biggest obstacles to healthy, normal birth. Even in developing countries midwives have to fight for the rights of mamas to birth in gentle, unhindered ways. We have a lot of work to do in the States, but women in the States have such privilege in birth that it’s unreal. (I was a birth advocate/doula in the states before coming here, so I am well-versed in birth politics in the US.) It makes me much more appreciative for what we do have in the States.

Beth Durden

Filipino president orders stronger breastfeeding strategy [April 2008]

In the wake of the Filipino Supreme Court’s decision upholding the country’s pro-breastfeeding laws, Filipino President Gloria Arroyo has publicly called for more effective public health strategies to promote breastfeeding. Speaking at a seminar on infant and young child feeding at a Manila hotel, President Arroyo urged the Department of Health to use breastfeeding programs to curb infant malnutrition and mortality.

“We must act and act fast to ensure that the nation builders of the future are provided with proper nourishment,” Arroyo said. She urged the DoH to work closely with hospitals to enforce the Filipino law which gives mothers the right to room-in with their newborn babies in hospital, a practice which supports breastfeeding.

“The promotion of breastfeeding for children up to two years old, with emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding for the infant’s first six months, is our fundamental approach to reduce if not eliminate hunger among infants and very young children,” she said.

Breastfeeding has been at the fore of the national agenda in the Phillipines for over a year as a highly-publicized legal battle was waged between the DoH and multinational formula companies over the right of the department to limit formula advertising and enforce strong pro-breastfeeding regulations. The supreme court upheld most of the DoH’s arguments and handed the department a qualified victory in October.

Arroyo’s speech affirmed the message already being trumpeted by health experts, who see breastfeeding as vital to improving the Philippines’ infant mortality rate, which currently stands at 32 deaths for every 1,000 births. Breastfeeding rates among Filipino mothers are very low, with only 16% of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their children. Ten thousand infants die in the country every year because of insufficient breastfeeding.

It is hoped that Arroyo’s support for breastfeeding, coupled with the enforcement of the Phillipines breastfeeding laws, will soon reduce these tragic numbers.