With Bolivian hospitals filled with COVID-19, moms choose home birthing

Lina Svenzen, a certified mid-wife from Sweden, weighs the newborn boy of Irma Aranciba (2nd L), who gave birth at home amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as her other children look on, in La Paz, Bolivia

Irma Arancibia decided she would give birth to her seventh child at home, part of a trend in the Andean country where soon-to-be-mothers are avoiding hospitals filled beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients.

Arancibia’s first six children were born in public hospitals, the costs covered by insurance that does not extend to home birthing. But with fear of the pandemic rising – there have been more than 8,300 coronavirus deaths in Bolivia so far – she says it is worth the expense to pay for a midwife to deliver her baby.

“(The baby) is going to be born here at home without public medical attention,” Arancibia told us. “When the pandemic started it got complicated at healthcare centers. It’s difficult to go.”

Arancibia gave birth to a boy who joins two brothers and four sisters.

In Bolivia there are 200 certified midwives, who just two months ago were doing only a couple of home births per month. Now each has a schedule of about 15 per month.

New mothers around the world are facing heightened fears and anxiety due to the pandemic.

In the Philippines, Manila hospitals have faced overcrowding for years but mothers having to share beds takes on new risks with COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that pregnant women may have increased risks, including preterm birth.

“Before, there were just some very well-informed mothers who had already consciously chosen home birth. Now there are many who choose it for fear of going to the hospital,” said Lina Svenzen, a certified midwife.

Some private hospitals give special care to pregnant women who cannot not access the public health system, while others opened a ward for mothers with COVID-19, since 80% of pregnant women in Bolivia test positive for the virus. The country has had 138,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far.

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