We love seeing the collections of “best birth photos” that make the rounds on the Internet. Seeing confident moms giving birth with supportive care providers are important images for all to witness. It got us thinking, though, about the stark differences in experience that women worldwide have while giving birth. While water birth is a popular option in some countries, we joke that a water birth in Haiti is when there is running water at the hospital.
Unless you’ve been here, it’s incredibly hard to wrap your head -and your heart- around the reality of birth in a poor country that has the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the Western Hemisphere. So, we’re sharing 27 intimate birth and postpartum photos to bring more awareness to what women in Haiti, and their skilled birth attendants, face everyday. Some of these images are raw, all are honest, and, we believe, reflect the hope and good work being done to make birth safer in Haiti, one mother and baby at a time.
But, first, the context and the setting:
While there may not be many comforts or high tech equipment, Hospital St. Therese in the Central Plateau has what many other hospitals in Haiti don’t: skilled birth attendants, and lots of them. The site of our clinical training (32 students wear pink scrubs), the maternity floor is also a second home to 18 SBAs, all graduates of our education program, where they provide quality, respectful and compassionate care to the women of Haiti.
As the public referral hospital for this region, high risk complications and obstetric emergencies occur here frequently: preeclampsia, eclampsia, hemorrhage, undiagnosed multiples, and obstructed labor to name a few. (Eclampsia and hemorrhage are the two biggest killers of pregnant women in Haiti and these deaths are preventable.) Our graduates are highly trained and experienced in complications that many midwives from wealthy countries will rarely see in their lifetimes. They perform these tasks in a hospital that does not consistently have running water or electricity at night. Working here, simply put, is not for the feint of heart. Obstetricians are, gratefully, on hand.
It is not uncommon for a mother to travel for 2-4 hours to reach the hospital while she is experiencing a life threatening complication. It is not uncommon for women to be carried on homemade stretchers from their mountain homes in hopes that they will survive a birth gone wrong. Not everyone makes it in time and we still see 1-2 maternal deaths each month simply because they didn’t reach the hospital soon enough.
While mothers must still bring their own sheets, food, a bucket for voiding, and a family member to care for them after the birth, women know that this is where they will get good care and increase their odds of survival. And so they come, about 200 each month, often from many hours away by foot or on the back of a moto taxi, to reach the safety of these walls and the comfort of a skilled birth attendant.
And the skilled birth attendants? Most were called to this work after having watched a cousin die or a mother die or an aunt nearly die from a preventable complication of pregnancy. These women (and a few men) are drenched in sweat by 8am and give themselves over to this work day after day (earning a monthly salary of $320) because they are saving lives. They are the frontline of preventing more maternal and infant deaths. They are Haiti’s heroes.
This is birth in Haiti.
Here are 27 images of childbirth in Haiti:
Labor & Delivery
Midwives For Haiti is a small organization doing big things. More than half of our annual budget is from individuals and we can only continue this work with support from people like you. If these birth photos from Haiti moved you, please consider making a gift of safe birth in Haiti and signing up for our monthly newsletter.
– Words by Summer Aronson, Communications & Marketing Director. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.