Native American Midwife Hopes to Bring Back Ancient Customs in Delivery

Midwifery dates back to ancient Egypt and has continued through the centuries to evolve with modern medicine. While the medical advancements have achieved higher rates of healthy births, some of the birthing practices from the past have been lost. Nicolle Gonzales, a midwife in New Mexico, and one of 14 certified mid-wives in the country that are of Native American descent, hopes to change that.

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Gonzales hopes to create a birthing center in New Mexico specifically for Native American births which will be the first of its kind in the United States. Gonzales points out that for generations, Native Americans have had birthing customs which include sacred Navajo ceremonies, burning sage and other traditions that they cannot or will not do in public hospitals. Many of these ceremonial customs have been performed for thousands of years but the Native American women will only allow them in private at their homes.

“At the birth center, you won’t have to ask anybody for permission,” Gonzales pointed out. Because births in the Native American culture are community-centered, the birthing centers will not have the same restrictions that traditional hospitals have, such as minimizing the number of people allowed in the delivery room.

Gonzales hopes to reestablish birthing roles among her community that have been abandoned with modern medicine.

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The birthing center will also address medical concerns in the Native American community including ensuring that prenatal care is delivered early and reducing the rates of preterm birth. It will have a holistic approach which takes in factors such as healthy eating in order to have a healthy pregnancy. The goal is to have the center tie together the benefits of Western medicine with ancestral traditions.

Gonzales is currently fundraising for the new center which she hopes to open within three years in a currently undetermined location in New Mexico.