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About Costa Rica

A few not-so-well informed Americans have suggested to us that the cause of our daughter’s problems was that we were in Costa Rica for her birth.

I wonder if these people know that the US has the worst maternal death rate of all industrialized countries.  Do Americans say to their Japanese and European friends who give birth in the US, “Why did you risk your life by coming here?” Our infant mortality rate is less than great, as well.

The US is, statistically, a slightly better place to give birth than Costa Rica:  slightly better outcomes for infants (6 deaths in 1000 births versus 9), and better for mothers (21 deaths per 100,000 versus 40).  The difference between Costa Rica and the US, however, is not as great as that between the US and Japan, or Holland, or Estonia, for example, or between the US and three dozen other countries.  Costa Rica is one of the best countries in Latin America to give birth in.

It’s surprising that the maternal death rate is so high in Costa Rica, given that they have had universal health care for over 60 years, first-time mothers are on average young, and nutrition is on average very good.  Indeed, as in the US, something’s not right. (Read more…)

The good news is that in 2009 the Caja, the Costa Rican Social Service, revised the obstetrical protocols for its hospitals to make them somewhat better for mothers and newborns.  Also, little by little women in Costa Rica are coming together to demand better treatment. (Read more…)

The main thing we could have done better is to stay calm, NOT call an ambulance and have a better back up plan.  The company we called, Emergencias Medicas is not a particularly bad ambulance company.  It is always risky to call an ambulance, in any country.