Wednesday, 30 November 2011

#12 Breastfeeding on the job

FACT OF THE DAY: Us ‘modern day mothers’ are not the only ones having to juggle breastfeeding with going back to work

Today I’m going to add to a previous post #8  about some superhuman Nepali women living in the foothills of the Himalayas who carry enormously heavy bundles of firewood during their pregnancies.(

Equally impressive was the lengths the researcher (Catherine Panter-Brick) was prepared to go to, to see these women's breastfeeding habits were affected by their work and way of life. She spent a year in this village, keeping a minute by minute record of the activities of 58 village women, observing each of them for several days during 4 different seasons of the year. That’s dedication! (She is now Professor of Anthropology at Durham University, so I guess her dedication paid off).

I had naively thought that the difficulties of combining work and motherhood were new issues for women in the past 50 years. I somehow assumed that pre Women’s Lib, mothers stayed at home and looked after the children, and I probably thought that it was the same around the world. I hadn’t even really thought about the fact that women in other cultures have been ‘going back to work’ after having their babies for centuries (a necessity if their family are to have enough food to eat).

Next time you and your friends are discussing the difficulties of going back to work while breastfeeding, spare a thought for these Nepali women and feel reassured that your problem is as old as the hills.

So, among these Nepali women, how does a mother’s work affect her breastfeeding patterns?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

#11 Would you have an affair to get pregnant?

FACT OF THE DAY: Without infertility treatment, in some cultures sleeping with someone else may be the only way to get pregnant. 

At first glance, sleeping with another man to get pregnant seems pretty extreme behaviour, doesn’t it?   However, imagine yourself in a scenario where the following is true;

1. Your marriage is an arranged marriage, rather than a love marriage

2. If you don’t get pregnant, it is very likely your husband will either divorce you or take a second wife

3. Having children and being a mother is literally the only acceptable way of life; not having children will mean you are a social outcast

4. Although women are generally blamed for infertility, you know your husband is the reason you aren't getting pregnant

5. There is no available infertility treatment for men

Under these circumstances what ‘resourceful’ woman wouldn’t consider the possibility of finding an alternative man to father her child!?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

#10 Birth in Bangladesh

FACT OF THE DAY: Childbirth is thought to be so ‘polluting’ in rural Bangladesh that the ‘dai’ who helps with the birth only bothers to wash her hands after she has finished dealing with the newborn and birth fluids, not before.

Right, today I am going to tackle one of the big ones – childbirth.

I have been slightly putting this off as it certainly doesn’t make for light reading. I guess we got a hint at this from the terrible birthing statistics around the world in post #2.

But today, I am going to describe the childbirth experiences in rural Bangladesh.

If you are hoping for descriptions of a lovely natural birth, with nurturing traditional birthing customs that ensure the safe delivery of the baby, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. If you are a fan of ‘natural birth’ you may find you’ve changed your mind after you’ve read this.

In fact, maybe this post should come with a health warning – not for the faint hearted, or anyone who is going to be giving birth soon.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

#9 Grass hut Caesareans

FACT OF THE DAY:  People in Uganda were performing successful Caesareans before they were done in Europe

Seeing as Caesarean sections are in the news at the moment I thought I’d add a Caesarean story to my blog today.
Caesarean or C-section, or just plain old section, I’m never quite sure what to call them (too many ‘a’s and ‘e’s for my spelling ability!).... The NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) is now recommending that women in England and Wales are given the right to choose a C-section on the NHS, whereas currently C-sections are only performed if there is a medical need, or if you are prepared to pay for them privately.

This seems such a strange reversal of attitude, until now we couldn’t even have an epidural on demand with the NHS and they were encouraging us all to have intervention-free births, and now suddenly they are recommending C-sections on demand?

On a scale of natural to unnatural, C-sections are obviously the least ‘natural’ way to give birth. They are the ultimate way to escape the risks of childbirth that nature throws at us (discussed in post #2).

So have any other cultures around the world also come up with the idea of a C-section?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

#8 Superhuman pregnant women

FACT OF THE DAY: A pregnant Nepalese woman was observed carrying 36kg of firewood back to her village the day before she gave birth

Wow, just absorb that fact.


Your average backpacker’s rucksack weighs around 25kg. A suitcase being checked in at the airport gets a 'heavy luggage' sticker to warn the baggage handlers if it weighs over 32kg. Yet here is a short, heavily pregnant woman, carrying 36kg on her back.

Makes me feel quite bad about the fuss I made about carrying the shopping in from the car, or getting an empty suitcase down from the loft when I was pregnant!


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

#7 Shameful pregnancy

FACT OF THE DAY: In many cultures women don’t, won’t or can’t tell anyone they are pregnant

Researching my previous post about the Gusii women (#6) who have anxiety filled pregnancies, I found out that shame is one of the emotions these women associate with pregnancy.

I wanted to know more. Shame? At first this seems such a strange emotion to be associated with pregnancy, especially as these are married women who really want to prove their fertility and have lots of children. Why should they feel shame?