Mother Survives High-Risk Pregnancy, Childbirth In Peru

PIH continues to care for mothers, children in Carabayllo

Posted on Dec 13, 2021

Kathy Morales and her daughter
Kathy Morales and her daughter, Victoria. Photo by Melissa Estefany Toledo Soldevilla / PIH.

In a hospital room in Lima, Kathy Morales stared into her daughter’s eyes for the first time. It was a moment the 29-year-old mother, after years of heartbreak, thought might never be hers.

Her daughter’s name is Victoria. Morales calls her “my miracle.”

She had wanted to be a mother for years. But loss after loss had kept the dream out of reach.

Her pregnancy with Victoria didn’t show until four months—and three pregnancy tests and a blood test—later. It was then that the reality began to set in.

“Some of us women dream of becoming mothers since we are very young. But once that moment arrives, we have no idea of all that lies ahead,” says Morales. “We have no idea.”

A Complicated Pregnancy

Morales is one of hundreds of mothers who have received maternal health care from Socios En Salud, as Partners In Health is known in Peru. For more than 25 years, Socios En Salud has provided medical care and social support in the impoverished hillside communities of northern Lima.

Morales first heard about Socios En Salud from an obstetrician at her local health center in La Flor, a community in Carabayllo District. At the time, she was four months pregnant. In the weeks that followed, Socios En Salud provided ultrasounds, medications and vitamins, and mental health support.

Essential to that care was Roxane Rivera, one of 90 community health workers with Socios En Salud, who was assigned to Morales’ case.

“Thousands of women like Kathy go through these types of complications during pregnancy and do not have support,” says Rivera. “The maternal and child health program [at Socios En Salud] has proven to intervene in a comprehensive way to ensure the health of the mother and child.”

That support proved crucial for Morales.

In the fifth month, she began to feel intense cramps and contractions and was rushed to the maternity hospital in Lima, where doctors told her she was going into premature labor—a condition that affects more than 30,000 pregnancies in Peru each year, according to the Ministry of Health.

She still remembers doctors in the emergency room discussing her daughter’s weight at the time: 1.07 pounds. Little more than a can of soup. Not likely to survive, if the labor led to a delivery.

“At that moment, I started crying,” she recalls.

She had already lost a son—born in late 2019, but passed away a month later—and had lost four others.

Fortunately, doctors were able to stop the contractions and prevent a delivery. Over the next several weeks, through Socios En Salud’s support, Morales continued her prenatal check-ups at the health center in La Flor, just 10 minutes from her home, commuting by motorcycle taxi. When she wasn’t at the health center, she was resting and eating as healthy as possible.

Still, the oxygen levels in her blood were dangerously low.

Socios En Salud helped her get a referral to the maternity hospital in Lima, where she stayed for three months, allowing for constant monitoring and care in the final weeks of her high-risk pregnancy.

On June 21, Victoria was born: 7.5 pounds and 20 inches. Perfectly average.

Kathy Morales holds her daughter at the maternity hospital in Lima.
Kathy Morales holds her daughter at the maternity hospital in Lima. Photo by Melissa Estefany Toledo Soldevilla / PIH.

Care That Continues

These days, Morales wakes up at 4:30 am—that’s when Victoria wakes.

“My life has changed,” she says. “Now, it’s all about her.”

She continues to visit the health center in La Flor for postpartum care, where her health and Victoria’s are tracked. At first, she was not able to produce milk and had “a lot of pain,” so fed Victoria formulas. But these days, she is exclusively breastfeeding—a change she chalks up to Socios En Salud’s support.

“They are always communicating with me,” she says. “They are always asking me how I am feeling about my health.”

That communication has included her emotions, too, as she navigates postpartum depression—a condition that affects millions of new mothers worldwide.

Rivera has been there to listen.

“Kathy has shown that the love she feels for Victoria is unconditional,” says Rivera. “She is a champion.”

For mothers like her, Morales has a simple message: have faith.

“Thank to Socios En Salud, I can say that Victoria is my daughter,” she says.

Dr. Paul Farmer sharing a friendly moment with one of his staff.

Paul's Promise

As we mourn the passing of our beloved Dr. Paul Farmer, we also honor his life and legacy.

PIH Founders - Jim Kim, Ophelia Dahl, Paul Farmer

Bending the Arc

More than 30 years ago, a movement began that would change global health forever. Bending the Arc is the story of Partners In Health's origins.