Urban Midwives is a documentary photography project that portrays the almost unknown work of Midwives who provide attention in one of the biggest cities in Latin America, Mexico City. In the Metropolitan Area, a place where more than 20 million people live, there is a single midwifery house and approximately 8 Midwives who attend home births.
In Mexico, being born or not in a hospital is a matter of status. The misinformation and discrimination women face in clinics creates the perfect environment for them to come in fear of what might happen to them or their babies in hospitals. Urban Midwives is the result of four years of documentary work and makes it visible that midwifery houses are spaces of resistance, spaces won by Midwives for the benefit of women, and makes it clear that giving birth at home is a political act.
Until 2012 according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey, Mexico ranks fourth worldwide in cea-sections without medical indication. This data almost triples the recommendations by the World Health Organization. In the midst of an epidemic of unnecessary cea-sections currently occurring in the country, Urban Midwives documents through photography that the midwifery model represents an alternative for women's access to health by providing care before, during and after their births, as well as contributing to decrease the rates of obstetric violence that Mexican women constantly experience in hospitals.
In October 2021, Urban Midwives won the photography contest on Traditional Medicine and Midwifery of the General Directorate of Popular Cultures.
At the beginning of 2021, some pieces from the COVID-19 Chapter of Urban Midwives were selected as finalists in the National Contest of journalistic and documentary photography: “Tiempos de Pandemia” by Cuartoscuro magazine.
In October 2020, Urban Midwives won the award for the category “Working Woman” in the 26th Latin American Documentary Photography Contest “Los Trabajos y los Días” organized by the National Trade Union School in Colombia.
In February of 2020, Urban Midwives was selected to join “This is Gender, Global Health 50/50 exhibition” in England as a project that portrays the "invisible" work of Midwives in Mexico City, and that positions the care system of Midwifery as a political and resistance act.
This project was selected in the XI edition of the IILA-Photography Award "Gender Equality" in March 2019 organized by the Italian Institute of Culture. And as a finalist in the 5th. National Photography Contest 2019, "Human Rights" in October of the same year organized by the Cuartoscuro Magazine and the Government of Coahuila, Mexico.
In September 2019, the project was published by the Open Society Foundations in the USA as a project that puts into question the policy of giving birth at home in a country with a high rate of cesarean sections like Mexico.
From November 2021 to January 2022, the exhibition Guardians of Life from the project Urban Midwives is exhibited at Casa Garita in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.
From October 2020 to February 2021, 40 pieces were exhibited at the Centro Médico station of the Metro System in Mexico City, allowing millions of people to learn about the possibilities of home birth through a gallery in a public space.
In 2020, a collection of 40 pieces was exhibited at the Casa Del Tiempo of the Autonomous Metropolitan University in March within the framework of a “Women´s Festival” organized by the Secretariat of Culture of Mexico City.
Until the end of 2020, Urban Midwives has been part of eight group exhibitions in; Chile, United Kingdom, Italy, Colombia and some cities in Mexico.
When women reach 36 weeks of pregnancy, midwives perform a home visit to know the space, answer questions and perform a checkup on women.
Hannah responds Angela's doubts during the home visit.
Andrea listens to her baby's heart rate as part of routine check up. Midwives' attention is focused on women. They explain all the procedures they perform, answer all their questions and help women to feel owners of their bodies and their birth processes.
One of the reasons Angela decided to give birth at home was because she wanted a birth accompanied by her friends. In the image one of them brushes her hair during contractions.
Sandra, a midwife's apprentice, massage Angela's sacrum to reduce the pain of contractions.
During labor, it is very common for women to say they can not do more. In the image, Hannah comforts and sustains Angela who has been in labor for more than 24 hours.
Hannah and Sandra wait patiently for Magali to advance in her labor after 10 hours. On the contrary, unnecessary caesarean sections are performed in hospitals in Mexico because women do not advance or dilate “fast enough”.
Midwives come to attend home births with childbirth chairs, a first aid backpack with medications and medical equipment, an oxygen tank and a labor bathtub.
The midwives show Maria the head of her baby to give her strength and to be able to continue pushing.
A newborn baby still maintains its connection to the placenta. Recently it has been proven that the placenta continues to pass nutrients even after birth, therefore, the midwives do not cut the umbilical cord until the mother and father decide it.
The midwives check the newborn babies to give a first diagnosis to the women regarding the health and normality of their babies and use that information to fill the birth certificates.
One of the great difficulties faced by midwives in Mexico is the fact that since midwifery is not regulated in the country, sometimes government institutions do not want to give them certificates so that they can guarantee that babies who swim with the women they serve are their children. This is a great contradiction since women have the right to choose where they want to give birth.
Hannah visits Cinthia at home after less than 24 hours of giving birth. Cinthia now has 2 children, the older is almost 2 years old and he demands that she continue breastfeeding even if she has her newborn in the other breast.
Sandra, apprentice midwife, helps Maria to hold her baby during a postpartum bath. Midwives offer this service to women to help them close cycles and start a new one as moms.
Mexico City was the epicenter of the pandemic in Mexico and in the midst of this context, women who insisted on giving birth with the accompaniment of a Midwife manage to avoid unnecessary interventions, excesses of medicalization and a hospital system that insists on controlling and colonizing their bodies. Based on WHO data, 85% of women in the world are healthy women candidates for a home birth. Therefore, since March 2020 with the arrival of the coronavirus in Mexico, women sought to flee from infections, unnecessary cea-sections, obstetric violence and the lack of companions when they went into labor.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the solutions worldwide to contribute to the desaturation of hospitals was to give birth at home with the accompaniment of a Midwife, however, in Mexico due to the discrimination faced by women who practice Midwifery and the lack of recognition by the state for the work they do made it impossible for women to access information based on scientific evidence that would allow them to decide to have a home birth.
Based on preliminary data from the Information Subsystem on Births of the Ministry of Health, during 2020 the rate of cea-sections in Mexico reached historical levels above 50% for the first time. These figures keep Mexico in the first places worldwide in cesarean births without medical indication, despite the fact that these represent greater risks to the health of women and are well above the 15% recommended by the WHO.