AP Photos: Mothers-to-be face challenges in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The birth of a first baby is usually a source of immense joy for couples. In Venezuela, however, the worries can override the excitement.

Twenty-four-year-old Adaimar Mendoza became pregnant for the first time in the midst of her nation’s worst economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted lives around the globe.

As a result of the turmoil, prenatal care has been suspended for women at public hospitals. Women arrive to deliver without prior evaluations to prevent complications. Maternity wards are short on supplies and specialists.

That’s on top of basic issues like getting gas to drive to the hospital at a time when shortages of fuel in the oil-rich nation have grown even more dire.

“It’s like we’re in a penalty round,” said Leo Camejo, Ada’s partner, referring to the high stakes finale of a tied soccer match. “The nervousness is always there.”

Venezuelan women for years have felt the acute effects of their country’s economic contraction, even before COVID-19 hit. Maternal death rates rose over 65% between 2015 and 2016. Contraceptives are unaffordable for most women. Many pregnant women leave, deciding to seek care abroad.

When Mendoza and Camejo learned of the pregnancy, it seemed life had turned upside down.

The couple lives with seven other relatives in the populous neighborhood of Catia in Caracas. Camejo had regular work as a graphic designer, but in recent months he’s struggled to find jobs. So he began selling hamburgers to pay for $20 visits to a private doctor’s office.

They also had to deal with pandemic complications now familiar to pregnant women worldwide. Every trip aboard public transportation brought fears of contagion.

Though officially the country registers about 65,000 cases, a relatively low number, limited testing means that is likely an undercount.

When their baby was born, the couple said seeing her tiny face gave them the courage to face the new obstacles that will come with raising a child in Venezuela.

“When I see Peyton, it’s like looking at Leo,” Mendoza said. “They have the same nose.”

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