Cultural Perspectives on Childbirth

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Every aspect of who we are from our behaviors to our learning processes is framed by our culture. The whole idea of a “melting pot” in America where many cultures blend to become one culture, is a fallacy.  People of like cultural and ethnic background tend to gravitate towards what is similar and familiar.  It shapes their identity.

This is particularly true of treaty nations (indigenous peoples) who struggle to keep their own tribal identity. Even in the cities, away from reservations, native people gravitate toward what is familiar and comfortable (besides where else would they get some Indian Tacos?).

Every indigenous group has their own cultural beliefs, rituals and traditions. Even for pregnancy and childbirth.  How childbirth took place was shaped by cultural values, ways of knowing, and framed within ritual and belief.

Unfortunately the cultural aspects were not all preserved and kept in all tribal groups, due encroachment from white society.  This encroachment has created a rift in fabric of cultural life. “The culture in which people grow up is one of the key influences on the way they see and react to the world and the way they behave (Nichols & Humenick, 139).”

For many cultures, including the Lakota, pregnancy and childbirth is much more than just a physical act.  It is believed that a spiritual force is at work.  Concepts, customs, and traditions develop around these spiritual beliefs.

Here are some of the sites I found, for other cultures:

Multi-cultural Beliefs

Within each indigenous culture are the ideas and concepts that surround the actions of the pregnant woman, her diet, how others should act when around her.  Some ideas and traditions actually carry across into multiple cultures around the world.

One concept has to do with knots and ties. That if these were within view of a pregnant woman, or she stepped across them, it would cause the umbilical cord to be tangled at birth. Another has to do with actions of others. If you fight around a pregnant woman or with one, it causes problems with her pregnancy.

For most indigenous cultures there are concepts taught regarding the spiritual aspects of birth and early childhood. There is a belief that a female spirit that assists in childbirth, for the Lakota people, and also assists the soul of the child in “picking” the family in which they will be born.  In western society, what they call the “Mongolian Marks” is what this female makes when a spirit is born in our world.

Infants and young children (until age 5) are considered “sacred beings” and our actions with them must be tempered by this belief.  They are closer to the spirit world, in Lakota belief.

Because of the spiritual forces in play, many indigenous cultures had and still practice rituals at the birth of a child.  This is due to the understanding that childbearing and childbirth are a sacred act.

This may not necessarily be understood by present-day women within the culture, but in their soul and spirit the women do recognize that modern medicine’s “managed care” works against the traditions and ageless wisdom of their tribe.  This is true whether they have a traditional spiritual base and upbringing in their lives or they have adopted non-traditional religious practice. Their sense of “knowing” from their soul, speaks out against what is not natural and a part of the spiritual birthing process.

Next: the Western Culture & De-Colonization of Birthing

What’s Next?

In the next few blogs I will be discussing the healing aspects and nutritional aspects of some common foods. These are beneficial for a variety of reasons and good to use in dishes, or to have whole, on your plate!

These particular foods I would recommend to include in your diet for a healthier pregnancy…



These will be:

Ginger Root

Any warnings for pregnancy and lactation will be included, and where possibility of a recipe or two. All references for these are on my reference page.

NOTE: Imagery is from free-domain imagery sites.  If I have used any images that are not free to use, please email me [] and I will remove them.




HepB (Hebatitis B)

Between 1 AND 3 Months:
Second injection of HepB

2 Months:
DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis); the IPV vaccine (polio); the Hib vaccine (Haemophilus influenzae type b); PCV (pneumococcal vaccine); and the first RV (rotavirus) vaccine, which is not an injection, but a liquid given by mouth.

4 months:
second RV (rotavirus vaccine), the second DTP injection, the second Hib vaccine, the second PCV injection and the second IPV injection.

Six Months:
The third DTP vaccine, the third Hib injection and the third PCV vaccine. At 6 months old, babies receive their third and final RV (rotavirus) vaccine

Between 6 and 18 months
Children also receive the third hepatitis B and IPV
Children 6 months and older receive the influenza vaccine seasonally.

12 Months
If there is a minimum of six months having passed since the previous DTP injection, babies can have their fourth DTP vaccine as early as 12 months.

Between 12 and 15 months:
MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine; the Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine; the fourth Hib injection; and the fourth PCV vaccine.

Children also receive two hepatitis A (HepA) vaccines between 12 and 23 months.

Q & A
Question: Can a baby’s immune system become compromised due to the multiple
injection of vaccines?

Answer: “The IOM report, published in 2002, concluded that there’s no evidence of a
connection between multiple vaccines and increased infection or autoimmune
disease (Shultz)”

Question: Does the MMR vaccine put my child at greater risk for autism?

Answer: Autism has been on the rise since 1970. It is now thought 1 in 110 children have autism. “Concern about a link between the MMR vaccine and autism began in 1998, after the British medical journal The Lancet published a study connecting the vaccine with autism (Offit).” Later studies repudiated the claims the study had made, these concluded that there is no connection between the vaccine and Autism. The questions arose due to Thimerosal (a mercury-based additive) being an ingredient in the MMR shot. Claims are that the vaccine does not contain this additive. Note: Thimerosal was removed after claims of this ingredient’s connection to Autism in vaccinated children.

How do Vaccines Work?

“A vaccine contains a killed or weakened part of a germ that is responsible for infection. Because the germ has been killed or weakened before it is used to make the vaccine, it can not make the person sick (NY State Department of Health)”.

From the CDC site; How Vaccines Work

From the CDC site; How Vaccines Work



When a person receives a vaccine, the body reacts by producing “antibodies”. Antibodies are the body’s defense mechanism, going to work when something “foreign” to the body enters. Once the antibody mechanism is triggered and the “foreign” invader (called an antigen) is fought off. Afterwards, the antibodies “remember” the antigen and the process it used to defend the body.


List of Infant Vaccine Shots by Month Through Age One. Last Updated: Jan 25, 2014 Kristen Fisher.

Can getting more than one vaccination at once overload my child’s immune system? Laura Shultz, n.d.

Does the MMR vaccine put my child at greater risk for autism? Paul Offit

How do Vaccines Work? Department of Health, State of New York.

Why are childhood vaccines so important? Center For Disease Control and Prevention, US Government.

*This is NOT a discussion of the pros and cons, just general information about when vaccines are recommended, and which ones.