Like many mothers before her, Arsenia Tagaro put her trust in a traditional birth attendant when she gave birth to her first child at home. This was a common practice in Bohol, an island province in the Philippines where Arsenia resides; three out of four women in Bohol still give birth at home. But private homes are not are not equipped to address potential birth complications, no matter how skilled the birth attendant.
The cost of services and distance of birthing facilities dissuade many Filipino women in low-income groups from seeking hospital or clinic care. However, a group of entrepreneurial midwives knew that there was an untapped market for women seeking safer delivery options.
With the support of the USAID-funded Private Sector Mobilization for Family Heath project
, the 200 members of the Bohol Chapterof the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines undertook training programs to enhance their knowledge and clinical skills on maternal and child health, including family planning. They also joined business management seminars and learned about recordkeeping, business planning, marketing, and promotions.
The midwives also recognized the value of professional and caring service as a way of attracting and nurturing loyalty from clients. They established and enhanced eight birthing clinics to qualify for government accreditation. This allowed clients with government health insurance to receive high-quality services from these clinics. These midwives also linked with back-up doctors to protect the lives of mothers in case of birth complications.
From 2007 to 2009, the midwives assisted 2,454 deliveries, and 85
percent of the pregnant women completed at least four prenatal check-ups. As of 2009 serving five towns in the island province of Bohol with an estimated 320,000 residents, the midwives’ birthing facilities are gradually replacing homes as the preferred and safer choice for delivery.
“For so long, midwives were considered as unskilled birth attendants. Through USAID assistance, we are now health professionals in the eyes of the communities we serve,” said Corazon Paras, CEO of a clinic in Bohol.
When Arsenia gave birth to her second child, it was a lot different. Assisted by a member of the midwives association, she delivered in a birthing facility just a 15-minute ride from her village. “I’m glad they’ve put up this place and doubly glad we could afford their rates,” she said.