I could feel the place’s peace rigth the way. A feeling as if I had returned to the past in a time machine. A typical small airport, but the only international airport in the country. Our guide and driver welcomed us with great gentleness and tranquility. You need a guide and driver to be allowed in the country, tourism is very organized and restricted.
Bhutan is located between China to the north and west, and India to the east and south. It is a small and curious country, with a population of about 700000 inhabitants. The most important index is the Gross National Happiness (GNH). Being possible to assess the country in a sustainable and less materialistic way. The country has a constitutional monarchy, with the King very respected and popular.
We visited beautiful places, like Taktshang Monastery or Tiger’s Nest. The temple was built in the 17th century, the cave where Guru Padmasambhava, who is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century. The influence of Buddhism is evident, the culture is focused on Buddhist philosophy and the preservation of Bhutanese traditions.
On the return of Tiger’s Nest journey there were some women selling some typical products and I asked them how the babies are born there. They said, a little embarrassed to talk about it, they were born at home with the help of the grandmother or another experienced woman who has gone through the experience, they traditionally do not have midwives as profession. I asked her position and showed the kneeling position supported in front.
Home birth is still very common, the introduction of childbirth at hospitals is still very recent. There is an incentive for women to have their babies in hospital. Time was short, but I managed to visit the hospital in the capital. Even the hospital has typical construction. Birth happens in the delivery room, in gynecological position, with a typical and “modern” hospital care, with a certain coldness, as if it were a sign of modernization.
After knowing the Takin, typical animal of Bhutan, my perception was confirmed through an interview with a traditional family who lived near the takins. They chose to have their babies at home, even living near the hospital. We talked while they were still loom. The grandmother was the one who attended the births, was very important to have her mother by her side. They felt that the house was very cozy and were more hesitant to go to the hospital, on a cold and unfamiliar, strange people that often treat women badly during childbirth, as they heard. The placenta is sacred and most often buried in a special place, where it will be protected from other animals. Maternal mortality is still very high, there are still many villages in remote areas without access to the health center if necessary.
Bhutan was one of the countries that I was mostly enchanted, with their traditions still very alive, as well as the conservation of nature, culture and simplicity of life. But we feel that the modernization process is happening quickly. Young people are very attracted to the western lifestyle, television, internet, Hollywood movies, parties. It was one of the last countries to open up to internet and television in 1999, for example. One concern of the King, who warned that the misuse of television could erode Bhutanese values and traditions.
It is a challenge to achieve this balance with tradition and modernization, including childbirth, where modernization can increase safety and that the traditions are kept during this important moment that is Birth.
Birth Rate: 18.75 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Maternal Mortality: 180 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
Infant Mortality: 42.17 deaths/1,000 live births (2010)
Neonatal Mortality: 33 deaths/1, 000 live births (2009)
Published at Gisele’s Blog