I live in Mexico, I have three children, and I can honestly say I’m truly glad I gave birth in this country. Do you know what my out-of-pocket expenses were for every birth? Zero. That’s right. Keep reading to know how this is possible.

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What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

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Mexico is generally thought of as an underdeveloped country, with no social safety net. But as always, the truth is completely different.

In fact, Mexico does have a social safety net, which includes universal health coverage. You read that right. In Mexico, health care is a right, not a privilege.

In Mexico, women have affordable access to birth control, maternal care, and medical insurance for their children. Working mothers can even get paid maternity leave. Surprising, isn’t it?

Personally, I’m a poster mom for maternal care in Mexico. My story is a positive example of the kind of care that all mothers should receive, no matter where they’re from.

My personal experience with maternal care in Mexico

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

The first time I got pregnant, I was 22 years old. I was a college student at the time, but I got my first surprise. My student insurance covered basic maternal care, including consults with an ob-gyn and prenatal vitamins.

By the time my baby was born, my husband had acquired employer’s insurance, which fully covered childbirth.

And it was no easy birth! My son baby was born at 28 weeks, and he ended up staying in the NICU for two months. But guess what? Insurance covered all of it- specialists, intensive care, oxygen, therapy, monitors, medication, labs, everything you can think of.

When our baby was finally able to leave the hospital, my husband and I didn’t worry about paying the bills. Insurance covered everything, we didn’t pay a cent. We’re still whole-heartedly grateful for this. You have no idea how much.

A few years later, I found out I was pregnant again. My husband and I were elated, until the day I woke up in a pool of blood. I was rushed to the ER at my local hospital. I had a miscarriage which required minor surgery and a hospital stay, and it cost me nothing. Not a cent. And I also got 7 days of paid leave from work.

The second time I got pregnant, I was a working mom. I was teaching full-time at a private university and I had my own employer’s insurance.

This insurance covered everything, and it also gave me paid maternity leave. This usually comes in effect 40 days before the due date. All I had to do was attend regular doctor’s appointments.

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

Unfortunately, childbirth was difficult again. One day, I was having breakfast with my family when I suddenly found myself standing in a pool of my own blood. My husband rushed me to the ER and I ended up staying in the hospital for almost a week before my second baby was born.

I had a condition called placenta previa, which carries the risk of massive hemorrhage during pregnancy and birth. I remained in the hospital, had labs done, and eventually, I was rushed into an emergency C-section. My baby and I needed intensive care for a full day. I received multiple medications, a blood transfusion, and oxygen. Fortunately, we both turned out fine and we were able to go home a few days later.

Do you know how much that cost me? Nothing. And I also got six weeks of paid maternity leave after childbirth.

I got pregnant with my third baby when I was working as a freelance English instructor. By then, my husband had become an academic in a public university and he had federal employer’s insurance which still covers our entire family.

I had a risk pregnancy due to my previous miscarriage and C-section. We were perfectly able to afford a private ob-gyn, but when my water broke my husband rushed me to our corresponding public hospital’s ER.

My baby was breech, so I had another C-section. I also requested to have my tubes tied, no questions asked. And do you know how much we paid for that? Absolutely nothing.

I have to admit that if it weren’t for Mexican employer’s insurance, my family wouldn’t be what it is today.

Women’s Health Care in Mexico

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

In Mexico, employer’s insurance is known as IMSS (Mexican Institute of Social Security) or ISSSTE (Institute of Social Security for State Employees). Both cover absolutely everything, from minor colds to maternal health care to catastrophic illnesses to organ transplants.

In 2003, the Mexican Congress passed a law which made health insurance a right and created the Seguro Popular (People’s Insurance. This covers the rest of the population that doesn’t have employer’s insurance. In less than a decade, Mexico officially achieved universal health coverage.

This coverage includes reproductive health as well as maternal and newborn health care. It also includes paid maternity leave for working mothers.

As a result of these efforts, the maternal deaths in Mexico from pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum complications have decreased from 89 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 43 in 2011.

From personal experience, I can tell you it was easy to get an IUD from my employer’s insurance. It also covered childbirth, paid maternity leave, labs, doctor’s appointments, consultations with specialists, ultrasounds, medications, hospitalization, and emergency services for me and my baby. There were no out-of-pocket expenses.

There’s no way I can ever be grateful enough for this kind of coverage.

How Health Care Works in Mexico

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

In theory, Mexican employers must award medical insurance to all their employees. Every month, a certain amount gets taken out of paychecks to pay for employer’s insurance. How much gets taken out depends on a worker’s salary, but the benefits are all the same.

In the case of the Seguro Popular (People’s Insurance), each family must pay a premium, and the cost depends on the family income. It can be anywhere between zero and the equivalent of $570 US dollars every year. It’s actually very affordable.

You could say all the citizens of Mexico are all paying for each other’s health insurance, but as a taxpayer, I say this is something worth paying for.

Health Care Challenges in Mexico

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

Of course, not everything is perfect. There are many challenges that Mexico faces when it comes to health care.

There are many remote areas which are lacking in hospitals, medical staff, and equipment. Also, even heavily subsidized health plans are unaffordable to the poorest parts of the population.

Most of the time, indigenous people are left out of the system. They usually live in remote areas and it’s difficult to make adequate health care available to them.

Also, there’s already a shortage of qualified doctors and specialists. Many politicians promise to build new hospitals, but it’s all useless if there aren’t enough doctors and nurses available to staff them.

Finally, not all employers offer access to health insurance. Nowadays, many companies don’t work inside the system and therefore don’t insure their employees because it saves them taxes. Many poor and unskilled workers have to settle for jobs that don’t provide medical insurance.

My Two Cents on Health Insurance

What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

In my opinion, every country should make health care a priority.

As American lawmakers and citizens engage in heated debate, I’ve heard all sorts of opinions. Some people claim they shouldn’t have to pay for anyone else’s “bad decisions”, and others believe it’s a shame American mothers don’t have access to affordable health care.

Fortunately, here in Mexico, everyone agrees healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.

Of course, Mexican health insurance is heavily subsidized. It wouldn’t be possible to do it otherwise. But what is the problem with that?

In my opinion, health care, and especially maternal care should be a priority for any government because the future of its population is at stake. In the long run, it’s better to invest in health care than to take care of millions of people who went bankrupt from hospital bills or who are too sick to work.

What about disease prevention? We have that covered too. All three of Mexico’s insurance institutions cover the costs of prevention, such as vaccines for children, reproductive health for women, and weight control for the obese.

In short, I believe health care paves the way for prosperity in the long run. A healthy population is a more productive population. I would give a bigger chunk of my taxes to pay for health care if I could.

Because the truth is if the Mexican health care system were different, at least two of my babies wouldn’t be alive today. Perhaps I wouldn’t be alive today.

So if you must, fight for better health care. It’s one of life’s most basic needs.

What is maternal care like in your country? Tell me about your experience in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “What Mexico Can Teach You About Affordable Maternal Care

  1. I agree with so much of what you say. However I believe “emergency” healthcare should be universal. Providing coverage (in and of itself) does NOT create a healthier country. It doesn’t encourage behavioral changes; it simply supplies various forms of treatment to compromised health. I believe coverage should require mandatory education to help empower people to PREVENT disease by learning and implementing LIFESTYLE BEHAVIORS that support healthier outcomes. Each person must learn to become more responsible for their health.

    If a person is financially irresponsible, there are repercussions (ex. declaring bankruptcy, losing a home, etc…) If a person chooses to be physically irresponsible, (intentional poor eating, intentional sedentary lifestyle, etc…) universal healthcare becomes an “enabler” to this type of behavior rather than addressing it and correcting it to help the patient understand their role in health restoration and maintenance.

    It is certainly a complicated issue. Rather than using methods that increase divisiveness and emotional defensiveness, we need to be more tolerant and explain the reality of the situation to help people understand the REAL ISSUES at hand. I would hope this would lead to BETTER HEALTH, MORE TREATMENT OPTIONS to choose from and affordable coverage for all to participate in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having universal coverage probably doesn’t change anyone’s lifestyle, but it does help people sleep better at night. I know my husband and I sleep better knowing that if something happens, our family won’t end up living under a bridge. Because sometimes shit does happen (excuse my language). And I don’t mean just catastrophic accidents, but other worse things. For example, my sister used to lead an active, healthy lifestyle and one day she was diagnosed with leukemia. If it wasn’t for the generous Mexican health care system, our entire family would’ve gone bankrupt trying to pay for hospitalization and chemo. On the other hand, I have universal health coverage, but I don’t see it as an excuse to neglect my health. I try to have as health a lifestyle as possible, and if anything affordable health insurance actually enables me to be even more responsible. The whole family can get yearly check-ups and screenings. We probably wouldn’t do that if we didn’t have such coverage. We’d probably skip paying for doctor’s appointments and ignore medical problems until it was too late. Perhaps universal health coverage is daunting, but at least some aspects should be non-negotiable, like reproductive health and maternal and infant care. This two elements alone have sliced maternal and infant mortality in Mexico practically in half and increased life-expectancy overall. Definitely, the way health practitioners address care should be re-assessed, but I truly believe affordable, universal health care is a right, not a privilege.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is just amazing. I wish that heathcare could be free here in Puerto Rico. But we are part of the U.S. and we have the same absurd laws when it comes to heath care. Those big companies only thing about the money. Not people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know health care can’t be absolutely free, and people have to pay for it, but I don’t understand why US lawmakers can’t come up with a humane plan. These are people’s lives we’re talking about.

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      1. You have to follow the money. The US pays the highest for all medicines and services, so it doesn’t benefit big pharma to have a healthcare system where the government controls the price of the medicines. If the meds were more affordable, a huge chunk of the price of healthcare would be decreased. I also understand the issue with personal responsibility, but I am not OK with someone with Diabetes not getting assistance because they made poor choices. That person would make those choices with or without access to healthcare. That is not a healthcare issue, it is an education issue among other things.

        I really enjoyed reading this story Fabi. Every time you share these types of stories, I feel less ignorant about Mexico. I love how much you have really educated me and your readers about it. Keep it up chica!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree with you. Health care goes far beyond personal responsibility, and definitely, big pharma has a lot to do with the high cost of health care. Thank you for you comments, Danay!

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  3. Thanks for sharing your story. This is such a different picture in every country out there. Good, band and everything in between. Have you ever watched the documentary sick around the world? It gives a good insight into a few developed countries and how different the practice of medicine looks in each one. Anyways, great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow I glad you and your children are ok. I’m sorry for your loss as well. Healthcare is always so complicated, but I certainly didn’t know Mexico had universal healthcare. What’s going on in the US is a bit scary, especially as a woman… but I’m praying they make better choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I also think it’s a scary situation for women in the US. I find it appalling that such a developed and rich country as the US hasn’t found a way to take adequate care of its own.

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