Childbearing beliefs among Cambodian refugee women

West J Nurs Res. 1990 Feb;12(1):108-18. doi: 10.1177/019394599001200109.


PIP: The reproductive beliefs and practices of 12 Cambodian women who had begun childbearing in Southeast Asia and were currently residents of Canada's Cambodian community of refugees were assessed through in-depth ethnographic interviews. The researcher, a public health nurse in a clinic that served a predominantly refugee population, conducted the interviews through female bilingual translators and obtained endorsement from the Cambodian Association. Respondents averaged 35 years of age, were married, and had been in Canada for 8 months-4 years following an average stay in a refugee camp of 6 years. They had experienced an average of 4 pregnancies. None of the women were knowledgeable about the timing of ovulation, and only 1 was aware of the conception process. Predominant was a belief that women needed to be "cool" to become pregnant, and that this state could be achieved through herbal medicines. Herbal remedies were also used to induce the menstrual period. Informants could not describe the process of fetal development, but recognized the importance of the maternal diet. "Cold" foods such as coconut were believed to enhance the chance of a health infant, while "hot" foods such as red peppers were avoided. A short, easy labor was sought through coconut milk and flower-based medicines as well as practices such as working hard and fast, not walking on tiptoe, and finishing eating before others. The women attended prenatal care appointments in Canada to please authorities, but showed little understanding of their purpose. 8 women had received a tubal ligation after their arrival in Canada and appeared to have been given little information about this procedure and alternatives to it. Overall, these findings indicate that Cambodian refugees in Canada maintain their cultural beliefs about childbearing, yet the Western system of medicine is failing to address these attitudes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cambodia / ethnology
  • Canada
  • Contraception*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy*
  • Refugees / psychology*