Introduction to Indigenous Women and Their Pregnancies: Misunderstood, Stigmatized, and at Risk
Indigenous people compose a significant proportion of the populations of Mexico and Central America. In Mexico alone there are over 60 indigenous ethnic groups, and in Guatemala, where almost 40% of the population are indigenous, there at least 24 ethnic groups. The well-being of indigenous peoples in these countries falls far behind that of the other members of their societies—they have shorter life spans, higher rates of infant malnutrition and mortality, greater poverty, higher maternal mortality rates, and less access to education and medical care and are exposed to stigmatization, destruction of their cultural traditions, and attempts to extinguish their languages and assimilate their people into the prevailing cultures—in some cases, even genocide has occurred. Unfortunately, illness and death of indigenous women resulting from pregnancy in Mexico and Central America has remained both a persistent human rights and public health problem for many reasons. Indigenous peoples in these countries are poor, women are the poorest, and the young women of reproductive age are the poorest of the poor. As a result of complex social and fiscal inequalities, these indigenous women can have up to several times the risk for the worst outcome possible for pregnant women—their own death—as a result of bearing children when compared with that of nonindigenous women in their own country and even in their same region.
KeywordsIndigenous women Maternal health Pregnancy complications Pregnancy Central America Maternal death Mexico Guatemala Belize Honduras El Salvador Panama Maternal mortality ratio Maternal morbidity Indigenous people Maternal mortality rate Epidemiology Anthropology Obstetrics
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