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Dominican Republic - Birth

The Dominican Republic probably has a different attitude towards birth than that from first world countries. The main difference is the prevalence of caesarean sections. According to the World Health Organisation, the recommended rate of caesarean sections in a country should be in the range 5% to 15%. The rate in the Dominican Republic is 31.3%, only exceeded by that of Mexico at 39.1% and Brazil at 36.7%. The reasons for this high rate are not clear, but may very well be due to cost, as c sections cost the patient more, as the hospitals insist you buy blood in advance, which is rarely used but never refunded.

Nearly all births take place in hospital, there is no network of midwives and home births are rare. The majority of births are in the public hospitals, and those who can afford it go to private clinics. It is not normal for the husband or partner to be present at the birth, seen as very much ‘woman’s business’. The prevalence of caesareans means that the expat may find herself forced into having a c-section as there is a lack of knowledge of how to cope with normal births. There are a few obstetricians around the country who will offer standard childbirth, but they are few and far between. Scans are easily available and other services for the pregnant woman.

In order to register the birth it is necessary to go to the civil registry office known as the Oficialia del Estado Civil for the area. There are two types of birth certificate – a condensed form known as Extracto de Acta and a longer form known as Acta Inextensa. It is wise to obtain several copies of both as originals are often needed in the Dominican Republic and never returned. Having registered the birth, if one or both of the parents have non Dominican nationality it is necessary to go to the relevant embassy in order to register the birth in the home country. For this one must provide both parents’ passports and birth certificates, marriage certificate, if appropriate plus the child’s birth certificate.

Following the birth, the mother is said to be ‘at risk’ for 41 days and is expected to stay in the house and not bathe. There is no culture of breast feeding, with most mothers using formula milk. Therefore it is extremely unadvisable to breast feed in public. The expat mother will find herself faced with all sorts of advice from Dominican women, such as not to eat bananas when she is pregnant or the child will have a bad chest, and not to cut the child’s fingernails before it is 3 months old or it will turn into a thief. Abortion is illegal as the Dominican Republic is a Catholic country. However, the morning after pill has now become available in certain pharmacies.

Useful Resources

Dominican Registry office information

Information needed by US embassy in Dominican Republic

Information needed by UK embassy in Dominican Republic

This guide was compiled with the help of Lindsay de Feliz, a British expat blogger living in the Dominican Republic. Visit her blog at yoursaucepans.blogspot.com.

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