September 30, 2009
Volume 11, Issue 20
Midwifery Today E-News
“Traditional Midwifery”
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The current issue of Midwifery Today magazine explores traditional midwifery in all its forms, from the healers and village midwives of many cultures, to the apprentice-trained or direct entry midwives of the industrialized countries. It includes articles on traditional umbilical cord care practices, Chinese medicine, viral hepatitis, birth in Ukraine, posterior breech and much more. You need this issue on your midwifery bookshelf!
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Midwifery Today Conferences

A full-day workshop is a great way to learn more about birth.

When you attend our conference in Philadelphia, April 2010, you can choose from a variety of full-day classes, including a two-day class on Traditional Midwifery Skills. There are also single-day classes such as Beginning Midwifery, Herb Workshop, Spanish Language for Birth, Breech Workshop, and First and Second Stage Difficulties.

Learn more about the Philly 2010 conference and get a complete program.

Birth Is a Human Rights Issue

The right to have the most joyous and healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum possible should be a human right for both mother and baby. Learn how you can help. Come to our conference in Strasbourg, France, September 28 – October 3, 2010. Classes will include Mothers' Birth Rights, Babies' Birth Rights and Maternal Mortality Is a Pressing Human Rights Concern.

Learn more about the Strasbourg conference. To receive a printed program by mail when it becomes available, please e-mail with your name and postal address.

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Quote of the Week

"The traditional midwife believes that birth proceeds in a spiral fashion: labor starts, stops and starts, while the baby goes down, up and down, and the cervix opens, closes and opens. Nature has no design for failure; she holds her own meaning for success."

Sher Willis

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The Art of Midwifery

One of the best food-based methods [for receiving easily absorbed iron] is to toast sesame seeds with sea salt in an iron fry pan (no oil). Then grind it in a food grinder with some seaweed (nori, the kind used to wrap sushi). In Japan it's called gomashio, and is sprinkled on everything savoury.

Gloria Lemay, via e-mail

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University of Turin researchers have found that women who take iron supplements during mid-pregnancy have a higher risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome. The study assessed iron supplementation, along with other factors, for 1000 women—half with gestational diabetes and half with normal glycemic levels—between 24 and 28 weeks gestation. Of the women studied, 212 were taking iron supplements, mostly in the form of ferrous sulphate.

The researchers concluded, "Routine iron supplementation in pregnancy is a matter of controversy and debate. The increasing reporting of harmful effects for unnecessary iron supplementation should be carefully considered. Further studies on larger cohorts are warranted to confirm these results, but glucose values should at least be monitored in iron-supplemented pregnant women."

The full report can be accessed online at:

American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 201(2): 158.e1-6, 2009

Editor's note: It seems that the best way to receive the benefits of iron without overloading the body is still the old-fashioned way—from food.

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Consider chiropractic care for safer, easier births.

Our doctors offer special care for pregnant women and infants. Specialties include the Webster technique for optimal fetal positioning and gentle cranial and spinal techniques for your baby. Visit

Stories of Extraordinary Central American Midwives

Josefa Mira was born into an extremely poor family, and with many sisters and brothers her parents told her that education wasn't a possibility, much less a priority. From the age of eight, Josefa taught herself to read and write, and she is now one of the most respected midwives in El Salvador. In addition, she provides medical care to people of all ages and works daily as an advocate for women's rights.

Josefa gave birth to the first of her fourteen children with only her grandmother in attendance when she was just fifteen years old. "Nobody went to the hospital back then, you just took care of yourself and each other." After the second child she gave birth to the other twelve alone.

She was pregnant with her fourth child when her younger sister went into labor. When her sister came to her for help, Josefa was hesitant. She says, "I didn't have any experience, other than my own births, but I just helped her while she labored and the birth went fine and there was no trouble delivering the placenta."

"I've been a midwife since 1960; it was simply out of necessity. In those times, women didn't go to clinics; we all had our babies in our homes. Women put their faith and trust in me and I was the midwife of all of the women of our community. But no one called me a midwife; not even I called myself a midwife. The women sought me out as an intimate friend to accompany them during their deliveries, and I stayed with each one until the baby was safely born, the house was tidied up, and the bed clothes were washed. And then they'd say to me, 'You can go chepa [a term of endearment], thanks for everything.'"

Josefa helped deliver babies during 12 long years of war in El Salvador. The people of El Salvador lived under a state of siege and no one dared travel to a hospital; they were filled with war victims and the risks of travelling from the countryside to the city were too great. Josefa attended births in fields or makeshift dwellings, everywhere they happened to occur.

Just like Alicia [del Carmen Huete Diaz, or Mama Licha, of Nicaragua], Josefa has known the anguish of being a mother with young children during years of war. Josefa gave birth to her youngest daughter when she was forty-five. She was living in a town called Santa Clara at the time with her five youngest children, and she left a week before she was due to give birth. She and the children walked down along the river bed and back below the road from Santa Clara because they knew it was more dangerous to travel along the street. It was on this day, as they hiked through the woods below the road, that the military marched above them into Santa Clara and massacred all 150 children of the village. Her own children are only alive because they left with her for the birth of their sister Sara.

Marie Tyndall
Excerpted from "Stories of Extraordinary Central American Midwives," Midwifery Today, Issue 91

Read the rest of this article and other stories of traditional midwives in our latest issue. Subscribe now to receive your copy!

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Web Site Update

Midwifery Today Goes YouTube!

Please check out our first YouTube video, the first in our Birth Essentials series:
Ina May Gaskin on Risk Assessment for Breech Birth

In this video, Ina May Gaskin of The Farm Midwifery Center teaches in the Breech Birth workshop at the Midwifery Today Conference in Eugene, Oregon, March 2009. She describes frank breech and explains the importance of screening clients for breech birth.

You may check out the table of contents for the newest issue of Midwifery Today here.

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Question of the Week

Q: How do you feel about the Obama health care plan? Do you think it's likely that midwives and doulas will be included in this plan?

— Midwifery Today editors

SEND YOUR RESPONSE to with "Question of the Week" in the subject line. Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the message.

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Question of the Week Responses

Q: I broke my tail bone during delivery of my first daughter 27 years ago. I still have pain when I get up from sitting on a hard chair and in some other situations. It was very painful for a long time, and was well over a year following the birth before I was able to get up off a chair without gritting my teeth or gasping in pain, and I have a strong pain tolerance.

My daughter weighed 9 lb 6 oz. Would a different position have helped during birth? I gave birth to my second daughter on my side rather than on my back.

— Anne

A: Breaking the coccyx in labor need not result in the protracted pain that you write about.

There is a pattern in acupuncture from Master Tung's Magic Points called "Flower Bone Three and Four" that can within a short amount of time alleviate the pain significantly, if not fully. Call your local acupuncturist and see if they practice those patterns and know how to use them. If they do not, then ask if they have a referral for someone who does practice Master Tung's points.

There is also the ability to insert a finger into the anus and physically reposition the coccyx. Any practitioner who understands the body well will be able to do this. Following this adjustment, the woman should be rather quiet in her body to allow the work to hold.

— Raven Lang

A: I gave birth to an 11 lb baby at home in 1-1/2 hours. All I can say is "hands and knees."

— Shirley

A: I would recommend chiropractic adjustment of your tail bone. I broke my tail bone as a kid, leaving it turned in, and it had to break out of the way with my first birth (and it was very painful) before his head would come down. Second birth was a breeze. Because of my experience, I usually recommend a chiropractic or osteopathic visit if a client has pain or discomfort of pelvic areas prior to birth or after.

— Danette Condon, Midwife

A: I am assuming you are referring to the "laying on the back" position for the first baby, and yes, a different position may have helped for your second baby, as you mentioned you were on your side.

I also have broken my tailbone (though not during any of my births), and have used Arnica montana (which I did use after my children's births in pellet form) in a homeopathic gel. You can also use it in a homeopathic pellet form to take internally. Arnica is useful for bruises, sore muscles, and all types of sudden impactful events, including surgery and accidents of all sorts, and even childbirth. While it is most effective if used as soon as possible, it is also a great benefit to injuries sustained long ago. I still use it on my tailbone, a year later, whenever my tailbone reminds me to use it!

Responses to any Question of the Week may be sent to E-News at any time. Write to Please indicate the topic of discussion *and the E-News issue number* in the subject line or in the message.

Think about It

We are losing the knowledge and wisdom of traditional midwifery as fast as we are losing the rainforest. Just as we are discovering this incredible knowledge base, it is disappearing. We can do better, and in some places we are. Much is being lost to our own arrogant medical imperialism and belief that we know what is best. Instead of extending a helping hand, as Marie Tyndall so artfully has done with respect and mutual sharing of knowledge [see excerpt from "Stories of Extraordinary Central American Midwives" above], we often come in with our ideas, taking over another culture with our medicalized one. Respect is a keyword here. We have so very much to learn from these midwives, who in many places are dying out. In other places they are being pushed out or replaced with a medical practitioner. In still other places they are picking up some of the bad habits of Western medicine, such as inducing with Pitocin at home. We also have a lot of great information to share. It is mutual respect that wins the day, with an openness to learn, share and teach.

Jan Tritten
Excerpted from "Traditional Midwifery," Midwifery Today, Issue 91

Read the rest of this article online here or in our latest issue. Subscribe now to receive your copy!

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I'm very interested in other cultures' traditions. Here are some of ours:

Pregnant women are not allowed to sit with their legs crossed, or to tie anything (shoe laces, rope, string or ribbon). This comes from our older tradition of pregnant women not being able to make or receive closed lei. Necklaces, or anything closed around the neck, are not allowed either. We may, however, wear lei that are open-ended (hanging on the neck). This is to prevent the baby's umbilical cord from being wrapped around its neck.

Fish with red flesh are not allowed to be eaten by the mother-to-be, because the baby will be born with a red birthmark.

Pregnant women are also not allowed to drink 'awa (kava kava) because it will bring on a miscarriage or induce early labor.

Mahalo for sharing.

Camille Kameaaloha Kanoa-Wong,

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