The indigenous villages of Guatemala have some of the highest maternal and fetal mortality rates in all of Latin America. The women of these villages are up to 67 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in the U.S. Only 25% of births in rural Guatemala are attended by a medical professional. Instead, traditional Mayan birth attendants called comadronas, who largely have no formal training, provide care during home deliveries where the women are predominantly giving birth in their homes with little to no resources. While well respected within their communities, the comadronas are not equipped to identify high risk pregnancies, or to manage pregnancy and birth related complications.
The Casa Materna Project seeks to provide critically needed medical services and education to impoverished mothers and babies in the rural mountain region of San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Due to the remoteness of the area, the lack of affordable maternal and newborn medical services, and the traditional preference for home births, this region has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios (338 per 100,000 live births) in the Western hemisphere. Our goal is for all the women of the San Juan La Laguna area to have an affordable, accessible and safe place to deliver their babies and thereby decrease fetal and maternal mortality in the region.
To decrease maternal and fetal mortality by establishing a community owned birthing center called a Casa Materna. A Casa is staffed at all times by skilled birth attendants who speak the local Mayan language and who welcome the participation of the culturally preferred comadronas. The birth attendants are trained to identify high risk pregnancies and the Casa will provide transportation for high risk and emergency cases to the hospital 1.5 hours from San Juan.
The Casa Materna Project brings added value to the community it serves.
Notable examples include:
- The intent to decrease maternal and fetal mortality rates in the region.
- The Casa Materna employs local Guatemalans who are invested in the community.
- U.S. operations are all volunteer run.
- The San Juan la Laguna municipal government has provided a previously unused clinic space where the Casa Materna is housed. This beautiful building was built in 2013 by an organization from Spain.
- Continuing education is provided for the trained birth attendants as well as the local comadronas.
- Saving Mothers and the School of POWHER collaborate with the Casa Materna Project to bring vital skills to the local birth attendants, comadronas, and educate local women about healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
- Helping Babies Breathe collaborates with the Casa Materna Project to provide training in neonatal resuscitation for those in resource limited circumstances.
- The Curamericas Casa Maternas have provided a successful model established in the rural northwest of Guatemala. Their leadership continues to provide mentoring as the Casa Materna Project develops.