Objectives: to examine the present-day knowledge formation and practice of indigenous Kaqchikel-speaking midwives, with special attention to their interactions with the Guatemalan medical community, training models, and allopathic knowledge in general.
Design/participants: a qualitative study consisting of participant-observation in lay midwife training programs; in-depth interviews with 44 practicing indigenous midwives; and three focus groups with midwives of a local non-governmental organization.
Setting: Kaqchikel Maya-speaking communities in the Guatemalan highlands.
Findings: the cumulative undermining effects of marginalization, cultural and linguistic barriers, and poorly designed training programs contribute to the failure of lay midwife-focused initiatives in Guatemala to improve maternal-child health outcomes. Furthermore, in contrast to prevailing assumptions, Kaqchikel Maya midwives integrate allopathic obstetrical knowledge into their practice at a high level.
Conclusions and implications: as indigenous midwives in Guatemala will continue to provide a large fraction of the obstetrical services among rural populations for many years to come, maternal-child policy initiatives must take into account that: (1)Guatemalan midwife training programs can be significantly improved when instruction occurs in local languages, such as Kaqchikel, and (2)indigenous midwives' increasing allopathic repertoire may serve as a productive ground for synergistic collaborations between lay midwives and the allopathic medical community.
Keywords: Guatemala; Indigenous health; Lay midwifery; Traditional birth attendant.
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