The Meaning of Giving Birth: Voices of Hmong Women Living in Vietnam

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Abstract

Increasing knowledge about the sociocultural context of birth is essential to promote culturally sensitive nursing care. This qualitative study provides an ethnographic view of the perspectives on birthing of Hmong mothers living in the highlands of Vietnam. Unique cultural beliefs exist in Hmong culture about the spiritual and physical world as well as ritual practices associated with childbearing. This includes variations of ancestor worship, reincarnation, and healing practices by shamans. Traditionally, Hmong families take an active role in childbirth with birth frequently occurring in the home. Situated within a large collaborative anthropology project, a convenience sample of 8 Hmong women, who had recently given birth, were interviewed regarding the perinatal experience. In addition, ethnic traditional birth attendants (midwives) and other village women contributed perspectives providing richly descriptive data. This ethnographic study was conducted during 6 weeks of immersed participant observation with primary data collection carried out through fieldwork. Data were analyzed to derive cultural themes from interviews and observations. Significant themes included (1) valuing motherhood, (2) laboring and giving birth silently, (3) giving birth within the comfort of home and family, (4) feeling capable of birthing well, (5) feeling anxiety to provide for another child, and (6) embracing cultural traditions. Listening to the voices of Hmong women enhances understanding of the meaning of childbirth. Gaining greater understanding of Hmong cultural beliefs and practices can ensure childbearing women receive respectful, safe, and quality care.

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