A Cultural Study of Childbirth in Rural Mexico


I. make up of a typical home

A. living arrangements

B. layout of the home

II. starting a family

A. new home

B. becoming pregnant

III. child birth

A. midwife

B. birth setting

C. prenatal care

D. birth of the child

E. postpartum

IV. conclusions

The rural Mexican culture is made up of many small towns and villages. The social connections among adults in

theses areas are relatively intimate because many of these areas are endoga mous communities. Most newly married

couples live with the man's parents until they are financially stable enough to purchase land of their own to build on.

Though it is less common the couple may decide to live with the wife's parents if the mother and daughter-in-law

don't get along (Kay, 1991, p. 367).

A typical mexican home or compound as they are commonly called. Consists of the family's private living space,

which is likely to be set back from the road. Generally the compound is enclosed by a stone wall and contains

several structures. There is the main house which might be a modern type, built of stone and have a metal roof, or

the traditional wattle and daub walls with a steep palm-thatched roof. Either way, it is likely to be a one-room house.

The traditional house is oval, has a floor of pressed dirt or tile, and two doors but no windows. Inside the

windowless house, daylight filters in though the palm thatching. At night a single electric bulb provides light. Also

at night, several hammocks are let down from the rafters and the house serves as the family's sleeping quarters. In

every compound there is also a separate cooking hut with an open fire. Near the well there will be a raised trough

covered, by a palm-thatched roof, for the daily clothes-washing. !

Sometimes there is a small bath house built of sticks interwoven with palm leaves, in which house hold members

take their daily baths. The most striking thing about life in the compound is the extent to which various activities

inter mingle. The whole compound constitutes an extended living area where there is little or no individual private

space (Spielman, 1993).

Typically rural mexicans believe that conceptions occurs immediately after a menstrual period. This idea is based on

the notion that the uterus opens to release the blood that has been dripping in during the preceding weeks. After the

menstrual flow has stopped the uterus is believed to remain open, it is during this time that women it most likely for

them to get pregnant (Jordan, 1993, p. 18).

Pregnancies are almost exclusively dealt with by midwifes. The first prenatal visit is somewhat special. At this time

the pregnant woman and the midwife determine the probable date of birth: nine calendar months from the day

following the completion of the woman's last menstrual period. Massage is an integral part of the midwifes skills. If

the midwife has determined, in the course of the massage, that the baby is in a breech or trans verse position, she

will do an inversion. She locates the baby's head and hip and by applying strong, even pressure to these parts, shifts

the baby's body into the more favorable head-down position. The procedure is sometimes painful but since the

alternative is a Caesarean section in the capital, the women much prefer to tolerate a few minutes of discomfort. The

midwife will do a version as often as necessary from the eight month on, up to the time of birth. She attempts to

avoid a breech birth if at all possible and is an expert at tur!

ning the baby even when the woman is in labor, as long as the breech is not yet engaged (Jordan, 1993, pp. 21-22).

Birth generally takes place in the home but for the birth of a first child it may take place in the mother's parent's

home. After the onset of labor women continue doing house hold tasks until the labor intensifies to the point that it

is no longer possible to finish what they are doing (Jordan, 1993, pp. 23-24).

The father of the child is expected to be present at birth, if he is not then any complications that may occur are

blamed on his absence. It is also typical for the mother of the woman in labor