Mayan Abdominal Massage

Elsa Gonzalez Ayala is a traditional midwife in the small town of Chunhuhub in Quintana Roo, Mexico. She performs monthly prenatal massages for her patients, delivers babies in hammocks, and massages women in the weeks following birth to help their uteri contract. She recently adopted a baby, Juan Diego, who was born at seven months to a substance-abusing woman who disappeared soon afterward.

Although she practices traditional Mayan medicine, Doña Elsa is a devout Catholic who brought her son to be baptized, and she visits the local clinic for Western medicine. She showed the students from CASA Midwifery School how to perform abdominal massages, using this pregnant photographer as a demonstration model.

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CASA Midwifery Students on a Journey

After preparing their public health presentations – including hand-sewn model pelvises, breasts and amniotic sacs – the students from CASA midwifery school boarded a run-down bus, ate American cheese and hot pepper sandwiches, and rode 32 hours from their school in San Miguel de Allende to the small city of José Maria Morelos in the Southern state of Quintana Roo. There all 40 students slept on the floor of a classroom at the Universidad Intercultural Maya and gave presentations to local traditional Mayan midwives about prenatal resuscitation, post-partum hemorrhage and other topics. The traditional midwives, who had learned from relatives and practiced for many years, taught the students about home births in hammocks, herbal medicines, and their own approaches to obstetric emergencies and prenatal care.

Next post: homestays with traditional midwives.

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CASA Midwifery School in Mexico

Here are some photos from my most recent trip for my Birth and Culture project.

In this first post, students from CASA, Mexico’s only government-accredited midwifery training program, prepared for a trip to rural villages where they studied with Mayan traditional midwives. At their school in San Miguel de Allende, they practiced giving presentations on women’s health and responding to birth emergencies. And in CASA’s hospital, a local traditional midwife delivered a woman’s fifth baby.

Next post: the journey.

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A Long Ride

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I’m deep inside of editing my three-week trip to Mexico, where I photographed birth and midwives. It’s a long ride; these pictures are from a long ride I took there.