Childbirth as a Lens of Medicalization on a Guatemalan Plantation

  • Sheila CosminskyEmail author
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


This chapter provides a longitudinal perspective of the continuity and changes that have occurred in local childbirth practices and biomedical practices on a Guatemalan plantation (finca) and a highland village in Guatemala over a period of 40 years. These include midwives’ incorporation of biomedical practices through addition or substitution, as well as their resistance to or rejection of such practices. During this period, changes have also occurred in the biomedical system. In this chapter, the author analyzes the problems produced by these changes through a series of illustrative examples. These include beliefs and practices of traditional Maya midwives and mothers that have changed, been modified, or persisted over the 40-year period of research on a finca in Guatemala and in the highland aldeas (hamlets or settlements) of Chuchexic and El Novillero of Santa Lucia Utatlán. We will look at how these changes have been either addressed or ignored in the government midwifery training programs, which are in turn influenced by international organizations, such as WHO, PAHO, and USAID and their health policies. We also examine the response of the midwives and mothers to these changes. In the process of medicalization of traditional births in Guatemala, midwives may have changed some of their former indigenous practices; ironically, these same traditional practices are now recommended by biomedicine and acknowledged as beneficial.


Indigenous women Maternal health Placenta Pregnancy Central America Prenatal care Guatemala Maya Ladina World Health Organization Finca Plantation Comadrona K’iche’ Maya Ethnography Birth ritual Traditional midwife Biomedicalization Breastfeeding Social support 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal JusticeRutgers UniversityCamdenUSA

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