Also in April, Nuria Landa, the midwife in Mexico, received emergency phone calls from two women who went into labour at home after they were denied help by a hospital that had been converted to a COVID-19 centre without prior warning.
Another woman in the Mexican city of Guadalajara told openDemocracy that she delivered her baby at home without complications in April, but the day after the birth she felt ill and went to a hospital for a coronavirus test (which she says was initially refused).
“The doctor put her fingers strongly inside me, revolving them,” said the woman, who described being scolded for having a home birth and told she probably had tissue in her uterus that needed to be removed. This was proven incorrect, she explained, when a second physician ordered an ultrasound – as well as a coronavirus test (which was positive).
This woman said she has reported her case to health authorities as a violation of laws against mistreatment in her state (which has not specifically criminalised obstetric violence).
It is unclear if or when these authorities will look into her complaints, and no one from ministries of health in Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay or Venezuela responded to openDemocracy’s requests for comment on this investigation.
Ecuador’s ombudsman’s office said in May, in response to openDemocracy’s questions, that they had not received a single obstetric violence complaint during COVID-19. This office did not respond to follow-up questions for an update on this in July.
A spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said they have “also received reports raising concerns about the human rights of pregnant women and girls in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We are concerned that around the world, with overstretched health systems, resources for routine services, like maternal health services, are often diverted… Documenting these incidents is a critical first step to exposing the problem. States need to bring their practices in line with the WHO guidance in this area without delay.”
Additional reporting by Magda Gibelli (Venezuela) and Agostina Mileo (Argentina).Print