Having a "safe delivery": conflicting views from Tibet

Health Care Women Int. 2005 Oct;26(9):821-51. doi: 10.1080/07399330500230920.


In the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) maternal mortality ratios remain among the highest in the world. Although traditional Tibetan medical theory, practice, and pharmacology include information on maternal and child health care, Tibet is one of the few societies in the world that does not have traditional birth attendants or midwives. Using ethnographic methods, we gathered data from individual interviews with rural Tibetan women (N=38) about their beliefs and behaviors surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. Additional data were gathered through interviews with prefecture, county, and township health care providers. These data were used to develop a culturally appropriate village birth attendant training program in rural Tibet. We describe Tibetan women's perspectives of "having a safe delivery" in relation to concepts about "safe delivery" according to evidence-based medicine in the West. Our work also provides an example of the benefits and challenges that arise when ethnographic research methods are used to design and implement health care interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Welfare / ethnology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Health Services / standards
  • Maternal Welfare / ethnology*
  • Medicine, Tibetan Traditional*
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Rural Health Services / standards
  • Rural Population* / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tibet / epidemiology
  • Women's Health