Childbirth is a universal life event that juxtaposes biomedical and sociocultural elements. This study employs an extensive qualitative approach by utilizing ethnographic interviews in order to gain information of Pashtun women's birth practices and their pertaining thoughts. The goal of this study is to provide qualitative information on the ethno-specific birth practices of the Pashtuns and find correlations between declining practices and the influence of modern medicine. Given the nature of globalization and the trends of change across cultures found in the literature, an initial hypothesis was that diffusion of Western medicine has impacted the traditional Pashtun birth practices negatively, causing the abandonment of low-risk, culturally relevant practices as well as those potentially physiologically beneficial even by Western medical assessment. Upon preliminary data analysis from the interviews, the Pashtun women's preferences of giving birth at home or in the hospital change depending on the country of residence due to cultural and availability factors. In the U.S., the hospital setting is preferred, although the women seek the least invasive measures and only female hospital staff to perform procedures if possible. American hospitals are obligated to accommodate cultural preferences, wherein there is no harm; however, literature points to the lack of autonomy of women in the American birth system, making immigrant Pashtun women further removed when dealing with cultural and language barriers. While birth setting, birthing positions, and postpartum hygiene are often compromised in the hospital setting, the Pashtun women maintain the use of home remedies and diet regimens during the postnatal period. The importance of this study stems from the documented cultural change and resiliency of Pashtun women as they have immigrated to the United States.


UWG Dept. of Anthropology, Antonio J. Waring Research Scholarship

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