Too many expectant mothers in Peru have little to no access to health care. Where health care facilities do exist in the rugged country, they are often too far for women whose only mode of transportation is a small boat, sometimes taking up to 12 hours to reach the closest health care facility.
In the community of Monte de los Olivos, as part of its Healthy Babies program, INMED built the first maternity waiting home (casa de espera) for pregnant women of the Ucayali region. One additional casa has since been established in the town of Atalaya, and another is in progress in San Jose de Yarinacocha.
Maternity waiting houses, built near health posts, allow expectant mothers and their families to reside there in the last stages of their pregnancies or during a high-risk pregnancy to ensure they are close to qualified obstetrical care when labor begins.
Dina’s story is a compelling example of why the casas de espera are so important:
Dina had delivered all her babies at home (one she delivered by herself) and was very hesitant to go to a health post this time around. Nonetheless, after much persuading and many conversations about increased risks, Dina and her husband did in fact come to the casa. When the time came, and her contractions became more intense, she moved to the health post, where she coped well with her contractions.
It eventually became clear that Dina’s baby was malpositioned, her contractions stopped altogether and her baby became distressed. She was quickly moved to a hospital where she had a Cesarean, and despite all the complications, gave birth to a beautiful daughter named Sayuri.
After being discharged from the hospital only two days later, Dina returned to the casa de espera requesting INMED’s services once again. Dina and her husband explained that they did not feel secure taking Dina to their home and small farm so far away so soon after the difficult delivery, and that they felt that she would only be safe staying at the casa for the following week.
It was a life-saving decision. On postpartum day three, Dina had unbearable pain from her incision, and between days four and five, she developed a fever and signs of infection. Had Dina been on their farm, they would have spent many hours traveling uncomfortably, either walking or using a motocar to reach the health post—or would not have attempted the trip at all until the symptoms were so severe that it might have been too late. Thankfully, since Dina remained at the casa de espera, she received the vital medical treatment she needed right away.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
Volunteer nurse-midwife Diana Shane recorded her experiences at the maternity waiting home in Atalaya.
INMED’s first volunteer nurse-midwife, Beth Tucker, also maintained a blog from her time serving at the casa de espera in Monte de los Olivos.