Midwife network expands choice
Auxilia Alvarez was about 15 when she attended her first childbirth. Her father was a traditional birth attendant in their remote Oaxaca village, Santa Cruz Ocotal, and he brought her to attend a woman in labor. When he asked her to hold the newly delivered baby, she was nervous: “What if it slips?” Today, with training and years of experience, Auxilia is now a trusted midwife in her own right, serving the neighboring village of San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban.
Much of Auxilia’s work is caring for pregnant women. But, she also offers a service that her father never imagined. Thanks to support from MSI Mexico, she provides modern contraception to women in this mountainous region.
Bringing essential healthcare within reach
Before MSI came to the village, Auxilia would sometimes make the six-hour drive to Oaxaca city to stock up on condoms, which she sold from the small clinic and pharmacy she runs with her sister Anastacia. But one day, a young woman named Yadira arrived on her doorstep.
Yadira is one of the two MSI team members who manages a network of doctors and traditional midwives throughout Oaxaca, providing them with contraceptives and other supplies. When she arrived in San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban, she asked whether they had a local midwife, and was introduced to Auxilia. Eager to learn more ways to help the women in her community, Auxilia agreed to join the network. Now, a bright blue banner outside her clinic advertises modern contraceptives, as well as basic supplies like pregnancy tests that previously were hard to come by in the community.
Since Auxilia was already trusted within her community, women were comfortable coming to her for help preventing pregnancies. “People already know us and look for us,” she explains. She also offered information sessions, explaining the different methods she was now able to offer.
Before Auxilia started working with MSI, contraception was very expensive in her community. Unsafe abortion was also a serious problem. “Women would say to me, ‘It would be better if I killed myself, I would be better off taking poison than giving birth’,” she explains. By making contraception more widely available, Auxilia is helping reduce unintended pregnancy, and the desperate and dangerous decisions that can follow.
Changing lives through choice
Women come from the entire surrounding region to seek services from Auxilia, sometimes traveling two hours on rutted mountain roads. Many live in communities where contraception isn’t yet readily available—and is still sometimes stigmatized. Some of Auxilia’s clients come to her for the contraceptive injection in secret, not telling their partners that they’re using contraception.
Auxilia has seen how contraception helps her clients take control of their health. One woman came to her after a dire diagnosis from a doctor in the city. He’d warned her that having more children would be dangerous to her health—but she couldn’t always afford to keep up a contraceptive method. After talking to Auxilia, she began using the injection, which protects her for three months at a time. Now, she’s able to avoid the health risks posed by an unintended pregnancy.
Another time, one of Auxilia’s cousins came to her for help. She was struggling to provide for her three children and feared another pregnancy would send the family further into poverty. She started using a contraceptive method and found a job. She said to Auxilia, “Thank you for taking care of me.” “And her children eat and dress well because the mom is working,” Auxilia says proudly.
Expanding the network, one conversation at a time
Yadira regularly makes the six-hour journey to supply Auxilia with contraceptives and other reproductive healthcare supplies. But many other remote communities throughout Oaxaca still lack access to modern contraceptive methods. That’s why, on a recent visit, Auxilia suggested Yadira meet with a midwife in a neighboring village where women were anxious to have access to contraception.
Donor support keeps this life-changing network growing. Thanks to generous people in the United States, Auxilia and Yadira can be there for the women in San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban, helping them improve their health and plan for the future.