What We Are Doing

Meet Dominga, a Traditional Birth Attendant in Mexico 7 Aug 2014

“When the baby is born, I tell the mother the importance of not throwing colostrum, because it is the first vitamin that a baby should receive”

Dominga is a traditional birth attendant (TBA) in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas in Mexico. Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico with a large indigenous population (35% of the population) and life expectancy is among the lowest in the country. It also has the second highest child mortality rate in children under 5 years.

Dominga is a mother of 6 who became a TBA after delivering her own children without medical or TBA assistance. Talking about her children’s birth experiences, Dominga says, “During my first child’s birth nobody was there to tell me what to do. I positioned my baby and I told my partner that I would give birth on my own as I could feel my son. He insisted on getting a TBA but I was confident. During my second child’s birth I was accompanied by my mother and some relatives. By then, my sisters had heard about my expertise to give birth on my own and I gradually became known as a TBA.”

Dominga tells us that she has helped over 100 women give birth in 8 surrounding communities for the past 17 years. In the Tzotzil culture a TBA is highly respected, they don’t receive any financial remuneration but are invited to a meal or given meat and soda by the pregnant woman’s family. To support herself and her children, Dominga trades coal and occasionally sells wool as well as looks after her farm.

Dominga explains the importance of being a TBA in Chiapas. She says, “Women prefer to be with us. They do not want to go to the clinic because they are left alone there. The nurses don’t feed the babies after birth and if the delivery time does not match the doctor´s timetable caesarean becomes mandatory. On the other hand, I am always there and accompany the mothers at all times. During childbirth and even after, I help feed and take good care of them.”

Dominga was able to become a trustworthy TBA after attending Save the Children’s workshops as part of the Child Survival project  in Altos de Chiapas that focuses on improving child survival and health of pregnant women, through the strengthening of local capacities in health.

Dominga explains how the workshops have made her a better TBA.

“Since I've participated in the workshops, I’ve learned what a mother should eat during and after pregnancy. I also have my own medical supplies compared to before when I had to borrow scissors from relatives to do my job. I 'm ready to act as a midwife and assure pregnant women to not worry about anything. All this has helped me a lot and I feel much better.”

Owing to the workshops, Dominga is more confident about diagnosing diseases, feeding the child at 6, 8 and 12 months and explaining hygienic practices to the mothers. For Dominga, it is never about the money. What she seeks is to save lives and help the women and children of her community. From being just the TBA, Dominga’s role has grown in the community. While previously she would only help with the delivery of the child, now she often visits the mothers, monitors their state of health and diagnoses problems.

The Child Survival project has been enabling TBAs and health volunteers to address some key areas - healthy pregnancies, breastfeeding, early detection of infectious diseases, danger signs in pregnancy, family planning, adequate food, among others, so that they can track cases and guide their communities effectively. To date the project has trained 69 health volunteers, of which 18 are TBAs.

You can follow our campaign at www.cadaunocuenta.mx