The Philippines’ Birth Practices Facilitate Maternal and Infant Mortality Declines

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MANILA, Philippines — Each year, approximately 130 million babies are born all over the world. Some may be born in a remote African village, others in a San Francisco hospital. Either way, keeping mothers and their children alive during childbirth is crucial. Many of the Philippines’ birth practices help ensure survival and allow mothers to give birth to healthy children. In the Philippines, the current birth rate is approximately 20 births per 1,000 people. Since 1950, the birth rate has steadily decreased. Additionally, infant and maternal mortality rates in the Philippines have dropped, and practices are in place to ensure the survival of both mother and baby.

The Philippines’ Birth Practices

The Philippines’ birth practices are unique to Filipino culture. In some regions, people believe that placing squash leaves on a woman’s abdomen will induce labor. Some women will drink coconut water with the belief that it will make for quick labor. The traditions that occur after birth are also crucial to Filipino culture. One ritual performed after the child is born is the burial of the placenta. In Filipino culture, burying the placenta is believed to signify the end of pain and blood loss for the mother. Another post-labor tradition is to tightly wrap the mother’s abdomen because it is believed that it will promote the retraction of the uterus and prevent further bleeding. While at home, mothers can rest while family members come to tend to household chores. This time allows mothers time to relax and spend quality time with their baby.

Infant and Mother Mortality Rates Drop

Infant mortality rates in the Philippines have dropped from around 25 per 1,000 live births in 2010 to about 19 per 1,000 live births in 2020. Compared to 1950, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the Philippines has dropped almost 80% and is continuing to decrease. As for mothers, the maternal mortality rate has steadily been on the decline. It has decreased from 149 pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births in 2009 to 121 women out of 100,000 in 2017.

Benefits for Mothers and Babies

Currently, the Department of Health of the Philippines has regulations in place for births taking place in hospitals. The rules implemented ensure the mother is being taken care of during labor, allowing her a companion of her choosing and providing necessary medicines to aid the birth. Although these practices can allow for safer deliveries, many mothers prefer to have traditional birth attendants (TBAs) help with the delivery. TBAs perform birthing practices with the knowledge they have obtained from other TBAs and their own experiences. TBA’s communities trust them and oftentimes, they share the same beliefs as the mothers.

Although the Philippines’ birth practices and traditions may differ from others around the world, the main goal is to keep mothers and their babies safe. Parents in the Philippines perform rituals they believe help during the birth and afterward. With the community’s support, babies can be born into the world safely and with unique traditions.


Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr

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