Birthing practices for Inuit, Hmong, and mainstream Americans have changed greatly over time, with the Inuit and Hmong practices being changed to more closely resemble the birthing practices of Americans. As stated in Lecture 1, childbirth along with many other things such as death or taking herbs to better your health, were seen as parts of “regular life” in American society. It was not that long ago, in the 20th century, where these life events were taken out of everyday life and turned into medicalized experiences. Hospitals started to become more prevalent during this time in America, and doctors were now the ones who saw to the women giving birth. This was because, according to this week’s lecture material, these men were the ones with the medical knowledge and the midwives were not, making the doctors the ones who were allowed to help during birth.
In the Inuit community, women in the past were to give birth in a hut that was not occupied by the family; if they were to give birth in a family hut, that hut had to be abandoned (Lecture 2). During the birthing process, an older woman who was experienced in the process of childbirth would assist the mother while also observing the newborn child to see if anything about their future or character would be revealed (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006). This new child would sleep with his or her parents, was constantly in contact with his or her mother, and was breastfed until the mother became pregnant again (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006).
However, when nurses from the United Kingdom came into contact with Inuit communities, they required the women to be flown south so that they could give birth in hospitals (Lecture 2). These women were flown away from their country and their families three to four weeks before they were due to give birth, and were not flown back home until after their baby was born (Lecture 2). This practice is not strongly supported by the Inuit: “It is interesting to note that while many Inuit babies today are born in hospitals or nursing stations, there is strong support among Inuit women for the return of traditional midwifery practices to assist in birthing” (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006).
In the Hmong community, birthing traditionally was to take place in the parents’ bedroom with assistance of an older woman with child birthing experience and the father of the child (Birth in Hmong Culture, 2011). After the child is born, due to the very strong lifelong connection to the placenta, it is buried in the home of the child. For males, the placenta is buried “under the main post of the house”; for females the placenta is buried “under the parents’ bed” (Birth in Hmong Culture, 2011). This practice is not highly supported by Western medicine or doctors, so in hospital births it is sometimes hard to get the placenta from the doctors (Fadiman, 1997).
Birthing, and other health related events, use a combination of both Western medicine and traditional medicine (Bengiamin et al. 2011). This is due to the Hmong not trusting the Western practices fully, and most times not having a satisfactory experience when interacting with Western medicine (Bengiamin et al. 2011).
Bengiamin, Chang, and John A. Capitman. “Understanding Traditional Hmong Health and Prenatal Care Beliefs, Practices, Utilization and Needs.” (2011): 1-30. Accessed July 16, 2016, https://www.fresnostate.edu/chhs/cvhpi/documents/hmong-report.pdf.
“Birth in Hmong culture.” (2011). Accessed July 16, 2016, http://sc2218.wikifoundry.com/page/Birth+in+Hmong+culture.