Topic: Health

Traditional Māori birthing practice endorsed by World Health Organisation

By Kawekōrero

A recent report that has been released says delayed clamping of the umbilical cord could help with the survival rates of premature babies. Public health department Hāpai te Hauora told Kawekōrero it is a reflection of tradition Māori birthing practices and western philosophies haven't acknowledged Māoridom yet.

"Mātauranga Māori has always been available, however, the practices of western medicine has reduced our ability to practice over the last century and more," says Hāpai Te Hauora SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant) manager, Fay Selby- Law.

She says the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 and the Midwives Registration Act have reduced the ability to practice mātauranga Māori over the last century and traditional Māori birth attendants were stopped from assisting natural births as women were placed into hospitals.

"This particularly pertains to the cutting of the umbilical cord which for reasons unknown to us was done immediately and we know that the past practice of Māori was to allow the umbilical cord to continue to flow to ensure that the nutrients from the Māmā to the pēpi continued after the birthing process."

The delaying of clamping has recently been endorsed by the World Health Organisation whose report suggested that waiting a couple of extra minutes attached to the umbilical cord at birth may translate into a small boost in neurodevelopment several years later. Selby-Law believes that reclamation of traditional Māori practices is essential to its moving forward. 

"We take this opportunity to remind them that we have our own mātauranga, we have our own healing practices."

"Traditional Māori birth attendants were stopped from doing births by ensuring that Pākehā mātauranga was used rather than Māori practices forcing many Māori practices underground and this has forced Māori women into hospitals situations to have births, what is a normal everyday practice for women to have their babies were forced into hospitals and this affected our birthing rate, this affected our survival rate," says Selby-Law.