Bringing Birth Home: An Analysis of Inuit Birthing Practices and Policies

Bringing Birth Home: An Analysis of Inuit Birthing Practices and Policies

Talia Bronstein

Inuit birthing practices changed dramatically following first contact with European colonialists in the 16th century. Since then, the Canadian government has played a large role in determining what birthing practices are or are not appropriate and available to Inuit communities. In turn, Inuit women and their families have shown great resistance to the imposition of strictly biomedical models that remove childbirth from the community. This essay briefly traces the evolution of governmental policies regarding Inuit childbirth from the 19th century until present, focusing specifically on the practice of relocating Inuit women from their homes to give birth in southern hospitals in the 1980’s. While there is great degree of diversity in cultural practices and regional infrastructure throughout the North, this essay aims to be as broad as possible. I employ a case study of an Inuit- led birthing center to explore how Inuit resistance to government policy led to a resurgence of traditional Inuit midwifery practices that incorporate biomedical technology. Inuit women and their communities have demonstrated throughout the past 30 years that it is politically, culturally and medically detrimental to relocate Inuit women to the South to give birth. The choices Inuit women have in childbirth are still highly constrained by political, geographic and economic factors, yet the case study reveals that resistance from Inuit communities produced a viable model for community births that utilizes both biomedical and Inuit midwifery practices. The history of childbirth in Northern Canada reveals that it is imperative to bring births home to Inuit communities.

Link to full article: Bringing Birth Home – An Analysis of Inuit Birthing Practices and Policies

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