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Childbirth and Health: Cultural Beliefs and Practices among Cambodian Women

Every society provides a system of knowledge and behaviors for coping with the life crisis of childbirth. In different cultures, pregnancy, birth and a period after birth are each, therefore, experienced differently. However, the system of knowledge and behaviors of all societies is observed in order to maintain wellbeing and preserve life of a new mother and her newborn. In this chapter the experience of Cambodian women is used as a paradigm case for analysing cultural interpretations of childbirth in Cambodian society. The 1988 study of health beliefs and practices within the Cambodian community reported in this chapter stems from personal involvement with the Cambodian community in Victoria, Australia and was conducted at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. One concern was to examine whether Cambodian people perceive childbirth as a contributing cause of illness. During this investigation, most women interviewed expressed their concerns about childbirth events. They gave several explanations indicating that childbirth events can lead to illness in people. These included, for example, eating proscribed food, failing to follow restricted customs and rituals, and failing to honor Krou Kamnaef (a guardian spirit who protects a newborn child). However, the study was not focused on childbirth practices.

Contents include

  • Procedures
  • Concepts of Toah
  • Spirits related to childbirth and health
  • Treatment of illness resulting from Toah and spirits
  • Implications of health services
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Author / Editor Biographies

Cultural - medical anthropologist
Dr Pranee Liamputtong is a medical anthropologist whose interests include the health of women, children, immigrants, refugees, older people, and transgender individuals. In terms of health issues, Pranee is very interested in issues relating to motherhood, reproductive health, sexuality, sexual health, and mental health. She has carried out a number of research projects with refugee and immigrant women in Australia and women in Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand. Recently, Pranee has focused her research on the sexuality and sexual health issues of Asian women and refugee/immigrant gro...

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