GUADALAJARA, Mexico – A visibly moved Selene Barragan embraces her baby after giving birth at her home in this western city with the help of a professional midwife.
After just over four hours of labor, Lucas entered the world in a birthing pool, his mother and father, Eduardo Castillo, having decided that their third child would be born at home to avoid the risk of coronavirus infection in a Mexican hospital.
Barragan was accompanied by Diana Toscano of Casa Aramara, a Guadalajara-based midwife-led birthing center whose services are in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and COVID-19-related deaths in Mexico currently totals 1,215 and 29, respectively, but despite the federal government’s moves this week to declare a public-health emergency and extend a ban on “non-essential activities” to the private sector experts fear a steepening of the epidemic curve.
Another Mexican woman, Carolina Trujillo, who is 38 weeks pregnant and due to give birth to her son in a matter of days, told Efe that her initial plan was for the delivery to take place at a Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) hospital.
But she decided to enlist Casa Aramara’s services because of the growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Mexico, aware that women are at particular risk of complications from the disease during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
“I thought it would be a good idea, so I wouldn’t have to be going to the IMSS (hospital). It would be tedious going (there) anyway with lots of people, and now with this it seemed to me it would be inadvisable to be there,” Trujillo said.
After the federal government imposed new restrictions this week, midwives have stopped performing gynecological revisions at Casa Aramara and begun making home visits to women on the verge of giving birth.
Maria Cortes, a Casa Aramara midwife with nine years of experience, told Efe that she and her colleagues realized that the increased number of coronavirus infections in Mexico could make women afraid of going to hospitals and that those fears could adversely affect their deliveries in one way or another.
“It occurred to us that there might be women who would want to give birth outside a hospital setting. And to also help lower the number of people in (hospitals), we opened up this possibility so they could have a safe alternative and reduce the risk of infection,” she said.
Women seeking this option are interviewed and undergo a medical examination to ensure they are healthy, do not already have an at-risk pregnancy and are not likely to experience complications from an at-home birth.
Casa Aramara also monitors pregnant women’s emotional state to ensure it does not complicate the childbirth process.
“For us, the delivery is more emotional than physical. We trust in the women’s bodies and the baby, but sometimes fears are what can most hinder that process,” Cortes said.
The concerns of pregnant women also stem from uncertainty over whether the rising number of infected people in Mexico could eventually overwhelm medical-care facilities, according to the midwife.
“Although hospitals are not now full of infected people, the feeling of unease is still there,” Cortes said. “In this time of crisis, they need a safe option.”