Voices of Maya Midwives: Oral Histories of Practicing Traditional Midwives from the Mam Region of Guatemala
by Sarah Proechel

[2005. Self-published, www.lulu.com; 171 pages, paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 77, Spring 2006, © 2006, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Cheryl K. Smith.]

You may be familiar with some of the Maya midwives from reprints of parts of this book in Midwifery Today, many of them in both English and Spanish. (See “Anciona” in Issue 77 [or online “Anciona Juarez Arrozco”]) Anyone who is interested in learning about traditional midwifery should read this book. It is an oral history project that tells the stories of six traditional Maya midwives from the Mam area of Guatemala, how they practice their art and the value of the temescal (traditional sweat bath) in both prepartum and postpartum care. The author discusses the issue of high maternal mortality rates in Guatemala and its relationship to midwifery care in the context of that culture, arriving at different conclusions than one might expect. The book also contains seven profiles of individual plants that are used medicinally by the midwives and women of Concepcion Chiquirichapa.

These interviews not only will provide helpful ideas for midwifery success, but will shed some more light on why the World Health Organization (WHO) is doomed to failure in its focus on skilled birth attendants rather than using available resources, including traditional midwives.

Reviewer Cheryl K. Smith is managing editor for Midwifery Today magazine, editor and publisher of Ruminations, the Nigerian Dwarf and Mini Dairy Goat Magazine and raises a herd of miniature dairy goats in the coast range of Oregon.

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