Date of Award

2014

First Advisor

Paul Naamon

Second Advisor

Kathryn Boswell

Abstract

This study highlights how beliefs regarding pregnancy and childbirth are intertwined with traditional perceptions and western medicines practices in suburban area of Burma. Through ethnographic fieldwork, I examine cultural beliefs, rituals, food, and behavioral restrictions Burmese women follow during their pregnancy and postpartum periods. I explore the reasons why women in my study area are still seeking midwives (traditional birth attendants) and traditional childbirth techniques, although the women are familiar with numerous western care and medicines. By using both etic and emic perspectives, as well as in-depth interviews; informal talks; and participant observations; I analyze how close-kin, midwives and the surrounding community influence the pregnant and new mother’s prenatal and postpartum behaviors. Lastly, I propose several strategies in which health care workers could implement biomedicines while paying attention to culturally sensitive health care behaviors. It is important to recognize the fact that some practices and cultural heritages are too precious to lose. Therefore, as my study shows, integrating both cultural practices and modern ways of care will yield highly effective, yet low cost health benefits to both mothers and newborns.

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