Parenting, Pregnancy

A look inside maternity wards the world over

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
April 30th, 2016

We will admit that we’re totally and completely obsessed with childbirth here at Show + Tell. Obsessed.  Women’s bodies are just so incredible. Whether a baby is conceived naturally, through IVF, surrogacy, egg donation and delivered vaginally or via C-section, we believe all births are completely mesmerising and totally miraculous.

I birthed my babies in a private hospital and after my second child was born, I was shipped off to a fancy hotel to breastfeed on a king-size bed with a view while chowing down on room service.  Totally unnecessary and indulgent, I know, but when the opportunity presented itself, there was no chance I was turning it down. At that time though, I was so rapt up in my baby that I didn’t really give a heap of thought to how lucky my son and I were to have wonderful care and access to the kind of medical technology that could possibly save our lives if something went wrong.

I was so fascinated by this photo series by photographer Alice Proujansky, who travelled and documented births around the world. Although the surroundings and conditions of births were different between the countries, Alice told Refinery 29 that the experience of birth is one of the only things we’ve ALL experienced – because “Everyone has been born.”

Alice said she wants her pictures to highlight “women’s bodies working, doing this really powerful thing” and boy, did she succeed. Her work also shows the huge differences in pre and post natal care and women’s health from country to country.

Baby being delivered by a doctor and medical intern via Caesarian section at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina. 

A doctor and a medical intern deliver a baby by Cesarean section at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

A nurse and medical intern assist a doctor treating a woman for a miscarriage at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina.

A doctor treats a woman who has had a miscarriage, while a nurse and a medical intern assist at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

A doctor treats a woman who has had a miscarriage in the Dominican Republic.  Abortion is illegal under all circumstances in the country, however women wanting to terminate their pregnancies are able to take over-the-counter medication that induces uterine contractions. They then present to hospital and report they are suffering a miscarriage, and the doctors complete the procedure. Alice reports the circumstances surrounding this procedure were unclear.

A doctor treats a woman who has had a miscarriage at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Patients scheduled for Caesarian sections at Juan Pablo Pina public hospital in the Dominican Republic wait for their turn. The hospital does not have hot water or consistent electricity.

Patients await Cesarean sections at the Juan Pablo Pina public hospital. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Patients’ relatives are able to wait outside of the maternity ward of Hospital Juan Pablo Pina, where female relatives care for their family members following delivery. Men are not allowed to enter the maternity area.

Patients' relatives wait outside the maternity ward at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina. Female relatives are allowed to enter the ward after delivery to care for their family members, but men are not allowed to enter. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Baby Wiley Lavoie born at his home in Brooklyn, New York with the help of a midwife.

Jen Carnig gives birth to her son Wiley Lavoie at home in Brooklyn, with the help of midwife Cara Muhlhahn. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Jen Carnig holds son Wiley after giving birth at home in Brooklyn, New York supported by husband Dan, daughter Olive and best friend Lisa.

Jen Carnig holds her son, Wiley Lavoie, immediately after his birth as her husband Dan Lavoie, daughter Olive Lavoie, and best friend Lisa Johnson look on. Carnig gave birth at home in Brooklyn, NY. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Doula Stephanie Abdullah-Simmons assists in the delivery of Laura Majia’s child at the Birth Place in Winter Gardens, Florida. Laura is also supported by husband Brandon.

Laura Mejia, 38, in labor at the Birth Place in Winter Garden, FL, assisted by her husband, Brandon Smith, and doula Stephanie Abdullah-Simmons. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Laura Mejia going through labour at the Birth Place.

Laura Mejia in labor at the Birth Place. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Midwife Chioma Ochomma listens for a fetal heartbeat at the Doctors Without Borders-run Aiyetoro Health Centre in Lagos Nigeria. Sadly, the baby had died. 

Midwife Chioma Ochomma listens for a fetal heartbeat at the Doctors Without Borders-run Aiyetoro Health Centre in Lagos Nigeria. The fetus had died. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Mothers wait patiently to receive vaccinations for their newborns at Doctors Without Borders-run Aiyetoro Health Centre in Lagos, Nigeria.

Mothers wait for their newborns to be vaccinated at the Doctors Without Borders-run Aiyetoro Health Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Nurse Kayla Jones, 25, updates the chart of a patient who had just received an abortion at Buffalo WomenServices in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo Women’s Health is a combination birth centre and abortion clinic, with staff saying that it provides the full spectrum of women’s reproductive care in the one place. 

Nurse Kayla Jones, 25, updates a patient's chart after her abortion at Buffalo WomenServices in Buffalo, NY. Jones gave birth to her now-four-month-old daughter at the Birth Center of Buffalo, which is part of the same facility. A combination birth center and abortion clinic is unusual, but the staff believe women should have access to the full spectrum of reproductive care in one place. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Nurse Kayla Jones, who has a four-month-old baby, pumps breast milk on the job at Buffalo WomenServices.

Nurse Kayla Jones, 25, pumps breast milk for her four-month-old baby at Buffalo WomenServices. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

]Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Elsa Gonzalez Ayala, a midwife in Chunhuhub, Quintana Roo, Mexico, shows CASA Midwifery School a traditional Mayan massage which is used to shrink a woman’s uterus following birth and reduce postpartum 

Midwife Elsa Gonzalez Ayala shows CASA Midwifery School students how to perform a traditional Mayan massage used to shrink a woman's uterus and reduce postpartum bleeding. The students traveled to Chunhuhub, Quintana Roo, Mexico to learn traditional midwifery. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

A woman with her newborn baby at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina in San Cristoba in the Dominican Republic. The hospital does not have enough sheets for all of the beds, so some women labour on ripped, plastic mattresses.

A patient with her newborn baby at Hospital Juan Pablo Pina in San Cristóba, Dominican Republic. Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Source: Alice Proujanksky Photography

Megan Gale speaks about her birth plan and how her actual labour with son River went down in the podcast version of our chat below. Listen in, then come subscribe to our pod party here.

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