Birthing in Jamaica: Hospitals, Citizenship and other concerns Part 1
Most people think that its the most absurd idea. I have the luxury of traveling to ‘first world’ countries. Why would I decide to stay in Jamaica and not fly out to North America or even England to have a baby?
The concerns seem to be genuine and easily understood. Jamaica is what the powers that be call a “Third World” country; the public health system here is often far less appealing than basic health facilities in “developed countries.”
But this is not even the root of the concern.
The practice of natural home birth is nearly non-existent in Jamaica. Statistics are hard to find, practitioners harder and the general idea is that a home birth is a dirty, primitive birth. There is just not public education about it! You might have thought that it would be a tradition we appreciated and practiced more in a grassroots country like Jamaica but home birth is not really a choice furthermore an option for women here. When a woman is pregnant, she meets with a doctor and may never actually know about midwives and the intimate guidance and welcome to the world of motherhood often garnered from the close relationship between midwife and expectant mother… as if lost to days of old. Most hospitals will give a laboring woman drugs quicker than they will give them information about other types of births beforehand nor does high school explain non-clinical types of birth.There is very, very limited information given to even middle class women about home and non-hospital birth and to many of these women the practice is seen as primitive. Whereas the home birth has now become a modern trend in other countries the trend hasn’t reached Jamaica yet.
I have learned that birth does not need to be a hospitalized, clinical process. As long as the pregnancy and birth have progressed without complication women can deliver their babies in the comfort of their home with just as much care as is needed to assist the natural process to occur.
It cannot be ignored that the practitioners of birth themselves in Jamaica do not know or are not equipped to give women these alternatives. Most OBS and other birth doctor and nurses have never seen a natural birth. They go to school and learn everything about birth in a hospital setting. A volunteer entity to Jamaica notes that the island “has a decent standard of healthcare. However, it lacks specialist staff in key areas such as midwifery. This voluntary work abroad will allow you to gain experience from working with professionals in the developing world.” There are no freestanding birthing centers that I could find.
For those of us that can travel the question of citizenship is abound in mother’s decisions of choosing where to deliver and the general idea is that if you can travel then you must. Jamaicans need a visa along with their passport almost everywhere they go. My guess is that the bureaucracy you have to deal with here and of course the limits to travel and migration that a citizen of Jamaica is met with is enough to make mother move across shores to deliver. The Jamaican passport office on Constant Spring Rd is an outdated system that makes me wonder where is the money for the infrastructure and resources to make the country’s offices move smoother. Mind you if you’re going to America, this is only one step one before standing up outside in the morning east sun on Hope Road- where the US Embassy is.
PART 2 NEXT WEEK- Why am I comfortable staying here?
The Nurses and Midwives Act, Jamaica– 1964
Birth in Jamaica….my Birth Story and Some Kultcha by midwife Colleen (Nelson) Scarlett, LM, CPM
St Ann Midwife Myda Trail– JA Gleaner