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Examples of Relationships between Modern and Indigenous Concerns Affecting Safe Motherhood in India

Elements of Safe Motherhood Issues Indigenous Concerns and Beliefs Associated with Them
Resistance to Birth Preparedness
  • Fear of Nazar (evil- eye often involving jealously of the good fortune of birth)
Obstructed Labour
  • Nazar
  • Conflict in the family causing emotional disturbance in the woman.
  • Effective contractions involve ‘heating’ of the body.
  • Experienced attendants recognize transverse lie and either perform external version or seek medical help.
Adequate Nutrition
  • Fear of ‘big’ baby that might get stick during labour causes get stuck during labour causes women to eat less.
  • Food ‘taboos’ like not eating papaya which has abortifacent qualities (seeds are ground and used to induce miscarriage).
Cord cutting

Not cutting cord until placenta is delivered.

  • Cord cutting a ‘skin’, a degraded and ritually polluting act.(see Narak in Appendix)
  • If newborn is not vital, the placenta – while still attached to baby – is stimulated by heat in order to transfer jee or life force from placenta to baby.
  • Burra hawa (bad wind) associated with malevolent spirit forces, and emotional-mental upset.
  • Can be caused by nazar or the woman having been afflicted, while moving about, by negative forces at a crossroads or from seeing a dead body.
  • Need to expel ‘bad’ blood, black blood (see Narak)
  • Hawa-gola (literally air-ball needs to be dealt with postpartum, related to contracting uterus
  • Putting baby to breast immediately after birth is a prophylactic against haemorrhage. This is not done because colostrum is considered bad for newborn. Rituals for family feeding of first substance to infant and ‘cleansing’ of mother’s nipples sometimes performed by baby’s bua (father’s sister) after 2-3 days.
Postpartum care
  • No cold air or wind should touch the woman’s body.
  • An empty space (the suddenly empty womb) is present and needs to be dealt with.
  • All things cold and dry should be avoided. ‘Cold’ will negatively affect the nadis or energy channels.
  • ‘Confinement’ of woman and baby. Woman’s body is ‘open’ – she is vulnerable and should not go out. Fear of malevolent forces could prevent them from seeking outside health care.



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