Over the past few decades in Guatemala, both men and women have been struggling to support themselves against poverty and against the numerous health care concerns stacked against them. However, women are especially prone more-so than men due to the increased chance of complications and health problems before, during and after pregnancy, as well as for the children of this country. Because of these added risks, Guatemala has seen a dramatic amount of women and young children die as a result, and this caused me to find interest in researching maternal and infant mortality among the people of Guatemala.
Among the mothers who give birth to children in Guatemala, approximately 120 out of every 100,000 births were fatal according to Global Health Observatory in April, (WHO, 2014). The World Health Organization also noted that out of 1,000 live births, 23 children died before the age of 5, and 15 died as infants/newborns. These numbers are staggeringly high, yet could be reduced with the help of proper and equal care to both men and women. However due to Guatemala’s Patriarchal society, men still hold much of the power and control over women, including in the realm of health care.
Mothers in this country often fail to get the resources they need in order to maintain good health themselves, as well as their children. One of the leading reasons maternal and infant mortality rates are so high is due to communicable diseases, often claiming the lives of children before the age of five (WHO, 2014).
Furthermore, women lack the ability to have their children in a hospital setting, instead seeking a Comadrona, much similar to a midwife here in the United States. These comadronas are not effectively trained; they instead rely on faith and God to learn their skills. Often times however, there are too many risks with childbirth, and without proper medical attention, mother and baby risk health concerns or death. Barely half of the women in Guatemala have some sort of skilled attendant at the birth, which correlates with the high mortality rate, (UNICEF, 2008-2012) while 80% of deliveries are aided by a comadrona without any medical education according to a recent study, (Hemphill, 2011). Unfortunately women are seen as inferior to men in Guatemala, and receive little to no education, and are generally devalued. In a scholarly article posted from San Francisco they noted, “because of their lack of education, their gender, and their ethnicity, they are commonly devalued by those in the formal health care system, and comadronas are often the scapegoat for the high mortality rates in the country,” (Walsh, 2006).
While there have been reports that infant and maternal mortality rates have been dropping, they are still far too high considering the medicine they should be capable of receiving with today’s advanced technology and medicine. “The Public Health Ministry acknowledged that Guatemala continues to have reproductive health problems, with higher mortality rates than those in most other Latin American countries,” noted another scholarly article from Guatemala City, (michiganelibrary.org). Overall it is important health issue to address not only from a cultural standpoint, but a public health standpoint as well because there is a fine line to balance between the two. While it’s essential for the infant and maternal mortality rates to drop in order to reach a healthier population and society as a whole, it is equally as important to somehow honor the cultural practices of the Guatemalan people and the comadronas. Perhaps providing proper medical education to them as they take part in their practice, something that would branch the gap between creating a more healthy public community, as well as keeping their cultural practices a part of their lives.
“Country Cooperation Strategy at a Glance – Guatemala.” World Health Organization (2014): n. pag. Apr. 2014. Web. 31 July 2015. <http://www.who.int/countryfocus/cooperation_strategy/ccsbrief_gtm_en.pdf>.
“Guatemala’s Maternal, Infant Mortality Rates Drop.” Michiganelibrary.org. EFE World News Service, 28 Mar. 2003. Web. 31 July 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fgo.galegroup.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu%2Fps%2Fi.do%3Fp%3DITOF%26u%3Dmsu_main%26id%3DGALE%257CA99276639%26v%3D2.1%26it%3Dr%26userGroup%3Dmsu_main%26authCount%3D1>.
Hemphill, Margaret, and Copeland. “The Comadrona and Response to Obstetrical Emergencies: Maternal Mortality in Highland Guatemala.” Msulibraries. ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, Jan. 2011. Web. 31 July 2015. <http://msulibraries.summon.serialssolutions.com/?l=en&ho=t&q=guatemala+maternal+mortality#!/search?ho=t&l=en&q=guatemala%20maternal%20mortality>.
“Statistics.” UNICEF. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2015. <http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/guatemala_statistics.html>.
Walsh, Linda V. “Beliefs and Rituals in Traditional Birth Attendant Practice in Guatemala.” Journal of Transcultural Nursing (2006): 148-54. Wunrn.com. Apr. 2006. Web. 17 July 2015. <http://www.wunrn.com/news/2006/07_03_06/070906_guatemala_beliefs.pdf>.