Issue 91

Autumn 2009

Traditional Midwifery

This issue explores traditional midwifery in all its many forms, from the traditional healers and village midwives of many cultures, to the apprentice-trained or direct entry midwives of the industrialized countries. It also contains the usual thought-provoking clinical and theoretical articles, inspiring stories of birth, and a gorgeous photo essay.

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  • Poem: You Ask How a Midwife is Made—Robin Lim
  • Editorial: Traditional MidwiferyJan Tritten
    Jan discusses the vast wisdom and knowledge contained within traditional midwifery, much of which, she asserts, we are in danger of losing.
  • Marion’s Message: The Midwife and the PartographMarion Toepke McLean
    Marion discusses the use of the partograph in developing countries.
  • Doña Cuca, Wise Elder and MidwifeSister MorningStar
    In this excerpt from Sister MorningStar’s upcoming book from Motherbaby Press, The Power of Women, Sister MorningStar remembers Doña Cuca, Mexican village healer and midwife, and through her story, honors the gifts of experience and wisdom that are passed down to a new generation of midwives.
  • Am I a Traditional Midwife?Brandi Wood
    What is a traditional midwife? Brandi Wood discusses this question in the context of her own identity, as an apprentice-trained midwife who also makes the most of twenty-first century technology.
  • A Tale of Two BirthsMolly Remer
    In telling the story of witnessing of a friend’s two similar yet different births, Remer explores how a care provider’s attitudes and beliefs about birth can affect their interactions with the laboring mother, and in turn affect her experience of the birth.
  • Some Traditional Umbilical Cord Care Practices in Developing CountriesCheryl K. Smith
    Babies born in developing countries around the world often do not have the benefit of sanitary methods for cutting the umbilical cord or keeping the cord clean. This article discusses a variety of the traditional cord care practices that have evolved in different countries, some of which are harmful and some that help to ensure that bacteria do not enter the cord stump.
  • At the Gates of Life and DeathRachel Knudson
    Working as a home health aide while pursuing her midwifery education, Rachel Knudsen discovers the parallels between the way people enter the world and the way they leave it, and makes the case for both conscious birth and conscious death.
  • Stories of Extraordinary Central American MidwifesMarie Tyndall
    From the 1970s to the 1990s, a series of long, violent and bloody civil wars raged in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Marie Tyndall paints a portrait of two extraordinary traditional midwives who, in the midst of tragedy and violence, remained grounded figures of love and nurturance for their communities.
  • Open Throat, Open VaginaDebra Flashenberg
    Vocal toning isn’t just an exercise for singers; use of this technique can benefit birthing mothers by causing their pelvises to relax and open.
  • The Achievements of Traditional MidwivesDebbie Díaz Ortiz
    This article outlines the achievements of Latin American traditional midwives, building upon the 2007 release of “The Traditional Midwife in Our Region.”
  • Some Traditional Practices from Around the World
    A sampling of traditional birth practices from varying locations and cultures.
  • Breech, Posterior and a Deflexed Head! An Active Birth Solution?Maggie Banks
    This article outlines possible solutions to a deflexed, posterior breech birth. The author makes the case that active birth is one of the most effective approaches.
  • FaithDaisy Case
    Trust that women can birth the babies their bodies create and they will believe it too. Daisy Case asserts that interventionist births are not a result of a failure in physiology, but rather, a lack of faith.
  • Bumi Sehat Aceh Traditional Village Midwifes Sharing Ilmu, the Spiritual Authority, Skill and Magic of MidwiferyRobin Lim
    In this update from non-profit Bumi Sehat, author Robin Lim describes their work with a group of village midwives in Aceh, Indonesia. These traditional midwives provide an invaluable service to local villagers, survivors of the 2005 Tsunami.
  • Traditional Midwifes of Caruaru, State of Pernambuco, BrazilRegina Marton
    Author Regine Martin reports on the state of traditional midwifery in Brazil, including efforts to integrate traditional midwives into the health care system. In the town of Caruaru, she describes a strong active association of traditional midwives, leaders of the community, who are working hand in hand with the city and the state in order to achieve their goals.
  • The Preceptor-Student Relationship—Sareanda Lourdes
    The preceptor and student have a symbiotic relationship that serves to move the field of midwifery forward. This article outlines helpful tips for navigating this important relationship, the responsibilities of the student, and the ways in which both preceptor and student benefit from their collaboration.
  • Homebirth through a Mother’s EyesMary Kury
    The author tells the story of her empowering late-pregnancy change from planning an obstetrician-led hospital birth to having a midwife-attended homebirth.
  • Are Traditional Chinese Medicine Theories of Normal Delivery Supported by Evidence-based Medicine?Zhang Hongyu
    Traditional Chinese Medicine is a summary of ancient practice experiences, rather than the results of randomized controlled trials. This article uses evidence from modern scientific knowledge to determine whether TCM theories of normal delivery are well-supported by evidence-based medicine.
  • Every Midwife for Herself?—Christy Fiscer
    In this essay, the author explores the division between midwives over the question of whether or not midwives should be licensed. This division, she asserts, is hurting the profession.
  • Brought to Earth by Birth—Harriette Hartigan
    Photo spread featuring selected images from Harriette Hartigan’s book Brought to Earth by Birth, published by Motherbaby Press.
  • The Birth DanceDenise Thompson
    This short, sweet piece describes the interaction between father-to-be and laboring mother at a Ukrainian homebirth. This piece is one of four articles in this issue describing different aspects of birth in Ukraine.
  • What I have SeenDenise Thompson
    The author describes the horrors of the hospital births she has witnessed in Ukraine, recounting scenes where the laboring women are treated inhumanely and ridiculed for showing signs of pain. This piece is one of four articles in this issue describing different aspects of birth in Ukraine.
  • The DreamDenise Thompson
    A midwife’s story of attending a beautiful Ukrainian homebirth. This piece is one of four articles in this issue describing different aspects of birth in Ukraine.
  • My First Doula Birth in a Ukrainian Birth HouseAnne Sokol
    This bittersweet story demonstrates how two cultures clash on the issue of birth. Sokol describes the experience of attending a Ukrainian couple’s birth in a birth house as a doula-in-training. This piece is one of four articles in this issue describing different aspects of birth in Ukraine.
  • Becoming TraditionNechama Wildanah
    The author explores the concept of tradition as something that is fluid and conscious, by drawing on her own evolving relationships with two tradition-rich cultures: midwifery and the Orthodox Jewish community in which she was raised.
  • Who Benefits from Training Traditional Midwives?Ann Davenport
    Davenport discusses the ramifications of training traditional midwives or skilled birth attendants based on conformity to a medical system that may or may not be in the best interest of birthing mothers.
  • Trip to the CongoJennifer Vanderlaan
    The author describes her journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she and another doula teach the basics of healthy pregnancy and postpartum care to over 55 women from the surrounding regions, who will go on to serve as midwives for their communities.
  • There and VBAC AgainKelcey Boyce
    The author describes her journey from expected repeat c-section to joyous VBAC.
  • Viral Hepatitis: Some Considerations for MidwivesKathleen McDonald
    In the US alone, at least five million people are infected with hepatitis B or C, and the majority don’t even know it. There is a good chance that most midwives will work with women who are unaware that they are infected. This article discusses the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of viral hepatitis from a midwife’s perspective.
  • Chinese Pickled Ginger Pig Trotters: A Restorative Meal for Postnatal MamasMin Yi Su
    The author shares the benefits of a traditional Chinese healing food for postnatal women. Recipe included!
  • Barquisimeto, Venezuela—Linda Jenkins
    The author investigates birthing practices in Venezuelan hospitals, where women who can afford it prefer to schedule cesareans, and those who can’t often end up laboring and giving birth amid strangers, without the support of family or friends.
  • Answering the Call: Essays—Hannah Roe and Eleanor Durant
    This is the second in a series of three sets of essays on “The Midwife I Want to Be” from our UK competition, held in cooperation with BirthChoices UK.

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