Social Support and Social Suffering: Uterine Health and Isihuayo Among Indigenous Women in Mexico

  • Vania Smith-OkaEmail author
  • Maryam Rokhideh
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


This chapter focuses on indigenous Mexican women’s experiences with uterine prolapse, particularly as a lived expression of their social suffering. We analyze the multifactorial nature of women’s health in a context shaped by a changing social and political landscape and compounded by perceptions of women’s bodies and bodily vigor. The research is based on rich ethnographic data collected during 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2016 in a Nahua village in the state of Veracruz. Results show that uterine displacement or isihuayo for the women was symptomatic of broader changes in their lives—lack of social support, a precarious and labor-intensive life, and a disconnection with state health and development initiatives. Additionally, the presence of inequality existing in the women’s interactions with state-level macroforces brings into focus the larger structural factors that shape their reproductive health. These all manifest as failed sociality and reflect the precariousness of the lives of impoverished, indigenous women that we illustrate here through their stories. We conclude that the implications of research on the effect of social support on women’s embodiment of social suffering can extend beyond one illness, linking it to broader social and political economic issues shaping the health of marginalized populations.


Indigenous women Isihuayo Uterine prolapse Mexico Displaced uterus Reproductive health Nahua people Pregnancy complications Organ displacement Social support Women’s health Pregnancy Veracruz Social support Social suffering Prospera Partera 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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