Background: An intercultural birthing house was established in the Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, as an intervention to reduce maternal mortality among indigenous women. This birth center, known locally as the Casa Materna, is a place where women can come to give birth with their traditional birth attendant. However, three months after opening, no woman had used the birthing house.
Methods: This study reports on the knowledge, attitudes and practices related to childbirth and use of the Casa Materna from the perspective of the health workers, traditional birth attendants and the program's target population. Structured interviews, in-depth interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with participants from each of these groups. Data was searched for emerging themes and coded.
Results and conclusions: Findings show that the potential success of this program is jeopardized by lack of transport and a strong cultural preference for home births. The paper highlights the importance of community participation in planning and implementing such an intervention and of establishing trust and mutual respect among key actors. Recommendations are provided for moving forward the maternal health agenda of indigenous women in Chiapas.