The Island Where She Lived Had Banned Childbirth for 12 Years. Then She Woke Up with Severe Pains.
The tiny island of Fernando de Noronha is often described as “Amazing with kids” in online reviews. Little do travelers know that the small island, population 3,016, has a unique law: no children. That all changed one day in May 2018.
12. Island Paradise
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago consisting of 21 islands and iselts. The island is about 220 miles away from the Brazilian coast. This remote island has picturesque views and is a UNSECO-designed World Heritage Site and tourists are charged an “environmental preservation fee.”
11. No Childbirth
Fernando de Noronha is in the far eastern part of Brazil. It has this rule for a very simple reason: the island doesn’t have the infrastructure for childbirth or prenatal care. Pregnancy is complicated and if a woman needed care, it’d be very hard to receive it. That rule was still in place as of 2018…
10. Children Welcome
Fernando de Noronha will gladly let children live and visit, but the island officials have banned childbirth. For 12 years, the island has carefully avoided any births, but that was about to change in May 2018.
9. Getting Proper Care
Prenatal care is very important, and the island officials wanted to make sure that any expectant mothers get the vital care they need for a happy, developing baby. If a woman gets pregnant while on the island, she must travel 227 miles to the city of Natal.
8. Hospital Services
In Natal, women can get the care they need and give birth. The island officials take maternal health very seriously and will transfer the women to a hospital if they start to go into labor while on Fernando de Noronha.
7. Keeping the Law
The local authorities don’t exactly fine people or send pregnant women to jail, but they take maternal health seriously and have taken on the role of transferring pregnant women to hospitals where they will safely give birth. The local government pays each woman return airfare, and also for an escort, to take them to safety on the mainland.
6. Not Alone
Although Fernando de Noronha is unique because of the government ban, it is far from the only remote place where women travel a long way to receive access to gynecological and maternity care. Women in Haiti or sub-Saharan Africa must walk for hours – or be carried – to be able to deliver safely. Even in places in rural America, like Winfield, Alabama, access to maternity care is sparse, with women traveling up to 90 miles away just to find trained doctors.
5. Tourist Heaven
Fernando de Noronha is a haven for tourists who love recreational diving. The city is spread between 21 islands, islets and rocks of volcanic origin. The islands of this archipelago are the visible parts of a range of submerged mountains. The main island has an area of 18 km. There are daily flights to Natal.
4. May 18, 2018
Women on Fernando de Noronha took the ban seriously, since it is their health, and that of their unborn babies, that is at stake. No woman had given birth on Fernando de Noronha in 12 years. But on May 18, 2018, that changed. A 22-year-old local woman who did not know she was pregnant suddenly went into labor.
3. Surprise Pregnancy
The baby was a surprise. Although the young woman had another child, born on the mainland, she didn’t think she was pregnant. A negative pregnancy test, coupled with no symptoms until a labor pain, convinced her she was not pregnant. The woman didn’t realize what was happening until she felt a strong pain and saw a baby sliding down her legs.
2. Rushed to the Hospital
The woman and the father quickly called an ambulance. Although the maternity ward of the island’s hospital had closed in 2004, the doctors and staff helped the woman. Maintaining a maternity ward was not considered financially viable, since it costs about $40,000 a month. With fewer than 40 births on the island a year, it was considered too expensive. However, the cost of the air services provided can range at over $82,000 a year. For that reason, many people think the government should change its policy.
1. A New Island Resident
The unidentified mother is grateful for the care she received on the tiny island. Her baby is a little girl who will grow up in the conservation-minded archipelago. The story of her birth may prompt serious changes in Brazilian maternity and baby care.