Birth & Midwifery in Venezuela
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Fernando Molina is family physician, Certified Prenatal instructor and midwife in his hometown of Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, population approximately one million people. Fernando considers himself a midwife by heart, and his wife Haylen works with him as a doula.
Fernando tells us how women are giving birth in Venezuela using 2006 figures of who attends births: 98% MDs and 2% traditional midwives in rural areas. Unfortunately, in Venezuela midwifery is not recognized in the infrastructure of perinatal care. Having an MD degree, Fernando asked the Public Health and Sanitary Deptartment to allow him to register births he attends directly in the official department of newborn registration without the hassle implied in outside hospital births. He tells us: “They could not understand me and were very reluctant at first, so I had to hire a lawyer to help me in the matter. Finally we won the case. I became (with pride) ‘el Partero.’” (Read full bio)
The Story of a Male Physician-Turned-Midwife
My name is Fernando Molina, Family Physician, Certified Prenatal instructor and Midwife by heart. I am called “el Partero” in my hometown of Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, which has a population of approximately one million people.
Let me give you some idea of how women are giving birth in Venezuela. In 2006, 98% of births were attended by MDs, and 2% by traditional midwives in rural areas.
Births attended by midwives have been a dying infrastructure for the last 40 years. In Venezuela we hear about midwives mainly in the west Andean mountain region. In the East, where I live, there are a handful of traditional midwives, very old in age, with no new generation taking over their knowledge and wisdom. They feel very alienated by the medical establishment. We do not have any university that certifies midwives.
More numbers: In 2006, in private clinics, the c-section rate in private clinics was 80% and the vaginal birth rate was 20% (in the public hospitals it was 30% c-sections and 70% vaginal births). These figures are given by the Latin American network for the Humanization of Birth, who somehow monitor what is happening in Latin America.
Unfortunately, in Venezuela midwifery is not recognized in the infrastructure of perinatal care. For babies who are born outside hospitals or clinics (and are not taken to these premises afterwards, where mother and baby would be hospitalized as “infected”), in order to register the baby, the government has a network called the LOPNA (law for the protection of children and adolescents), where the few midwives who deliver babies have to take four witnesses to the birth and the signature of the “chief of the neighborhood” where the delivery took place. This paperwork is a hassle.
I have had the honor of delivering babies at home since 1983, with the birth of my own son. During the last 10 years, I have been dedicated exclusively to gentle homebirths, mostly waterbirths. Since I have an MD degree, I asked the Public Health and Sanitary Dept. to allow me to register “my babies” directly in the official department of newborn registration without the hassle implied in outside hospital births. They could not understand me and were very reluctant at first, so I had to hire a lawyer to help me in the matter. Finally we won the case. I became (with pride) “el Partero.”
This is my humble experience in Venezuela.