Family Planning Methods Among Mayan Women in Guatemala and the Challenges Facing the Indigenous Population

  • Julia FestaEmail author
  • Taraneh Shirazian
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


High rates of maternal mortality continue to be an important public health and sociological problem in developing countries. It is estimated that 303,000 women die as a result of preventable childbirth complications each year. In Central America, Guatemala exhibits the highest rate of maternal mortality, where 1 of every 170 pregnant Guatemalan women will die giving birth annually. It has been estimated that the maternal mortality rate for the indigenous Mayan population of Guatemala is three times greater than the national average. Within the indigenous Mayan community many women choose to give birth at home with the aid of an unskilled traditional birth attendant (TBA). Studies have shown that the promotion of family planning methods, birth-spacing, and reproductive health knowledge could help decrease maternal mortality rates worldwide. Although a great deal of public health efforts have focused on family planning promotion, there still exists a disparity in contraceptive use among the Spanish-speaking Ladino population and the indigenous Mayans, with Mayan women being less likely to use family planning methods. A closer look at this phenomenon reveals social, cultural, and economic barriers that limit Mayan use and adherence to family planning methods. Ultimately, these findings call for the greater implementation of culturally sensitive reproductive health care and gender-transformative interventions that allow both men and women in Mayan communities to be active participants in their reproductive health.


Indigenous women Maternal health Guatemala Pregnancy Central America Contraception Ladino Family planning Maternal morbidity Maternal mortality Contraceptive methods Gender inequality Abortion Unsafe abortion Maya Birth spacing Nongovernmental organizations Prevention Government funding 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Saving MothersNew York CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyNew York University School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical CenterNew YorkUSA

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