Mothers-to-be face challenges in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) : The birth of a first baby is usually a source of immense joy for couples. In Venezuela, however, the worries can override the excitement.

Twenty-four-year-old Adaimar Mendoza became pregnant for the first time in the midst of her nation’s worst economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted lives around the globe.

As a result of the turmoil, prenatal care has been suspended for women at public hospitals. Women arrive to deliver without prior evaluations to prevent complications. Maternity wards are short on supplies and specialists.

Ada Mendoza, 24, smiles during a game of riddles during her baby shower at her parents’ apartment in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Ada Mendoza, 24, takes a picture of the decorations at her baby shower as her nuclear family, her partner, and close friends celebrate at her parents’ home in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

That’s on top of basic issues like getting gas to drive to the hospital at a time when shortages of fuel in the oil-rich nation have grown even more dire.

“It’s like we’re in a penalty round,” said Leo Camejo, Ada’s partner, referring to the high stakes finale of a tied soccer match. “The nervousness is always there.”

Venezuelan women for years have felt the acute effects of their country’s economic contraction, even before COVID-19 hit. Maternal death rates rose over 65% between 2015 and 2016. Contraceptives are unaffordable for most women. Many pregnant women leave, deciding to seek care abroad.

When Mendoza and Camejo learned of the pregnancy, it seemed life had turned upside down.

Ada Mendoza, 24, receives a fetal ultrasound that shows her unborn daughter who she will name Peyton, from her obstetrician at a private medical clinic where visits average $20 U.S. dollars, in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Ada Mendoza, 24, rests her head on the shoulder of her partner Leo Camejo, as they return home on a bus after a prenatal visit to a private clinic in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Ada Mendoza, 24, tries walking to ease her labor contractions as she waits for her cousin to bring the car around, in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, late Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Reacting to labor contractions Ada Mendoza, 24, leans on her mother as they leave the Hugo Chavez Frias Public Maternal and Children’s Hospital after doctors ordered them to return home to wait for more frequent contractions, in the El Valle neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, just after midnight, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

The couple lives with seven other relatives in the populous neighborhood of Catia in Caracas. Camejo had regular work as a graphic designer, but in recent months he’s struggled to find jobs. So he began selling hamburgers to pay for $20 visits to a private doctor’s office.

They also had to deal with pandemic complications now familiar to pregnant women worldwide. Every trip aboard public transportation brought fears of contagion.

Though officially the country registers about 65,000 cases, a relatively low number, limited testing means that is likely an undercount.

Ada Mendoza, 24, breastfeeds her newborn daughter Peyton for the first time at the Hugo Chavez Frias Public Maternity and Children’s Hospital in the El Valle neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, early Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Ada Mendoza, 24, shows her daughter Peyton to her partner Leo Camejo for the first time, hours after giving birth at the Hugo Chavez Frias Public Maternity and Children’s Hospital, in the El Valle neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Reflected in the rearview mirror, Leo Camejo sits with his partner Ada Mendoza and their newborn baby daughter Peyton as a friend drives them home after being discharged from the hospital, in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Ada Mendoza, 24, arrives home with her newborn daughter Peyton after being discharged from the hospital, in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Nelida Lopez holds Peyton’s foot, her newborn granddaughter, on the day Peyton arrived home from the hospital, in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Nelida Lopez kisses her daughter, first-time mom Ada Mendoza, while cradling newborn granddaughter Peyton, after the two arrived home from the hospital, in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
Two-day-old Peyton lies in a basket as her family watches over her in their apartment in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

When their baby was born, the couple said seeing her tiny face gave them the courage to face the new obstacles that will come with raising a child in Venezuela.

“When I see Peyton, it’s like looking at Leo,” Mendoza said. “They have the same nose.”

By : JORGE RUEDA and MATIAS DELACROIX – AP NEWS

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