Mary Annette Pember / Rewire on Vimeo: Indigenous Midwives
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Mary Annette Pember: Native women bring back traditional birthing practices




Native women in the United States and Canada are returning to their traditions when it comes to childbirth. Independent journalist Mary Annette Pember takes a look at the growing indigenous midwifery movement:
Aboriginal or indigenous midwifery is seeing a resurgence as conventional health-care policies in hospital and clinics perpetuate an environment in which most contemporary pregnant Native women are considered pathologically unhealthy.

“The mainstream medical narratives surrounding Native women depict moms who don’t breastfeed and don’t have partners. According to this portrayal, Native women don’t exercise, eat poorly, and have diabetes. We are seen as hopeless,” said Marinah Farrell, an indigenous Chicana certified professional midwife based in Phoenix.

“When I worked in the hospital, I saw so many Native mothers who would hemorrhage and have terrible outcomes during their births. It seemed so abusive; they were treated like they were sick already when they entered the hospital doors,” said Rebekah Dunlap, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe who works as a doula and is a registered nurse, bachelor of science nurse, and public health nurse in Minnesota.

What began quietly as the efforts of a few dedicated women has in recent years grown in size, scope, and agility. Today, Native women across the United States and Canada are putting their skills to work in challenging the status quo of mainstream medicine.

Birth has become dangerously medicalized for them. Cut off from traditional diets, support networks, and community midwives due to colonization and assimilation, many Native women have chronic health conditions that mean giving birth is a high-risk activity—and one that requires travel to well-equipped hospitals.

Read More on the Story:
Mary Annette Pember: The Midwives’ Resistance: How Native Women Are Reclaiming Birth on Their Terms (Rewire January 5, 2018)