Health Care Women Int. 1998 May-Jun; 19(3): 205-15.
Living in two worlds: Native American women and prenatal care.
Child Welfare Partnership, Portland State University, Oregon, USA.
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore traditional beliefs and practices related to pregnancy and childbirth among Native American women and examine the relationship of these beliefs and practices to current use of prenatal care. Focus groups of elders and young women were held and the data analyzed with the Ethnograph software. The central theme was the breakdown in transmission of cultural wisdom among Native American women. The major causes described by women were federal assimilation policies and deaths of elders. Major factors influencing young women's nonutilization of prenatal care were this breakdown, the "Western model" of prenatal care, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Recommendations for improving the use of prenatal care are grounded in the reality that Native American women live in two different worlds. Prenatal care should be reconceptualized as traditional cultural wisdom, with the majority of care provided by natural helpers in the Native American community, including tribal elders, grandmothers, and aunts in collaboration with licensed providers.