Managing Maternal Mortality: On-the-Ground Practices of Traditional Birth Attendants in Southern Belize

  • Aminata MaraesaEmail author
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


The training of “traditional birth attendants” [TBAs] has been a global public health strategy to lower mortality rates in developing countries. Based on anthropological fieldwork in southern Belize, this chapter ethnographically explores the practices of two TBAs to understand how local cultural actors enact these purportedly acultural global strategies. This chapter describes research conducted in the Toledo district, an ethnically diverse and linguistically complex region that is the poorest and least developed with some of the most remote and difficult to access villages in the country. Containing large numbers of indigenous Kekchi- and Mopan-speaking Maya, it is also the area in Belize marked by the highest rates of fertility and intentional home births. Within their practices TBAs must navigate relationships of power, categories of knowledge, and gender constructs in order to provide relevant and effective maternity care. In 2006 the author conducted anthropological fieldwork among the TBAs in Toledo, with official follow-up research in 2007–2008. This chapter describes the on-the-ground practices of two TBAs who were trained by Giving Ideas for Tomorrow [GIFT], a United States-based nongovernmental organization, in the years 2000 and 2001. Through these case studies, this chapter considers local beliefs about birth, maternal risk, and a discourse of fear to assess the successes and failures of TBA presence.


Belize Traditional birth attendants Maternal death Indigenous women Maternal health Maternal mortality Central America Kekchi Mopan Maya Reproductive health Childbirth Training Pregnancy complications Maternal morbidity 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of AnthropologysNYU-School of Professional Studies and Fordham UniversityNew YorkUSA

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