My eye-opening Midwifery elective in Peru

A two-week Midwifery elective in Arequipa gave 3rd year midwifery student Fiona an insight into a completely different healthcare system and a chance to travel before starting full time employment. Here’s what she has to say about her experience…

Fiona Ducksbury is studying Midwifery (Direct Entry Programme), Bsc (Hons).
Fiona Ducksbury is studying Midwifery (Direct Entry Programme), Bsc (Hons).

“I’d always wanted to go abroad for my Midwifery elective as part of my Midwifery BSc, and Arequipa in Peru immediately drew me in.

"Work the World, who specialise in tailoring overseas physiotherapy placements, set it up for me. It took the stress out of organising my placement whilst studying an intensive healthcare degree.

"I travelled to Peru with a friend, via the United States and Peru’s capital, Lima. We spent our first day doing a welcome tour and meeting fellow housemates.

"But nothing could have prepared me for the first day of my placement and the stark differences between care here and in the UK."

"The women give birth without the support of their partner as men aren’t allowed to attend in Peru, but I saw them pacing the clinic’s corridors. The women give birth on their back, most receive an episiotomy and, with three beds in the open delivery room, there’s little privacy.

"The women provide all supplies for their postnatal stay – food, nappies and hygiene items – and once transferred to the postnatal ward, partners and families care for them.

"I have a renewed appreciation for the abundance and sterility of equipment in the UK too although despite differing standards Peruvian sepsis and infection levels following birth seemed low.

"And there are many positive aspects to their approach from using natural methods to induce contractions to few problems during labour. It was great to see a high breastfeeding rate too.

"The ‘obstetras’, or midwives, and obstetric doctors were friendly and happy for me to watch and ask questions. Local staff asked about midwifery practice back home, and were surprised by our use of pools, and standing and squatting positions.

"All of the women I came across in clinic were extraordinary. Their resilience during childbirth was amazing to observe. Some local practises were difficult to accept. But I remembered I was there to learn and not to judge.

"Travelling was a big part of my elective too. Arequipa is a beautiful city, with friendly people, and I felt safe. After my placement for the day, we visited attractions, bars and took bachata and salsa lessons – meeting a lot of locals this way. One of my best experiences was when I travelled to Machu Picchu, with a colleague, via an overnight bus and train, what an incredible landscape.

"The friendships I made with people from all across the world will stay with me forever. The trip was a once in a lifetime experience and I enjoyed every single second. I still think about my experience with laughter, joy and amazement. I can’t believe I actually did it.”