Anthropology and international health : Asian case studies by Mark Nichter; Mimi Nichter

By Mark Nichter; Mimi Nichter

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These data may serve to illustrate that lay knowledge of fertility is an issue in need of study in developed as well as developing countries. The majority of women interviewed in the prenatal clinic did not understand reproductive physiology. Sixty one percent could not correctly answer questions as to why their menstrual periods occurred, the source of menstrual blood, or why the menstrual flow stopped…. One of the most prominent misconceptions about menstruation involved uterine anatomy. Many of the women seemed to perceive it as an organ which was closed between menstrual periods and which had to open up to allow the blood to get out.

13. 14. have offspring. “The land is blamed if it gives not a good harvest…. ” Similarly, Delaney (1991) notes that women in Turkey provide the soil while men provide the seed. Notably, men’s and women’s contribution to procreation are differentially valued, with the male seed viewed as the sole source that creates a child and its identity. Also employed by āyurvedic practitioners are analogies associating a woman’s menstrual cycle to the movement of the sun and moon. Elsewhere in India, Marglin (1992) has found that a woman’s menstrual cycle is perceived to be analogous to the movement of the earth through the seasons.

13 Many informants found the subject of conception troublesome to think about abstractly. They shifted between references to blood which incorporated ideas about descent and ideas about health and illness. Ideas were diffuse and not well integrated. It might be argued that such an eclectic body of ideas CULTURAL NOTIONS OF FERTILITY IN SOUTH ASIA 7 about conception better serves the prevailing pattern of discerning descent. ) than strict interpretations of descent by blood line. LAY NOTIONS OF FERTILITY: CROSS-CULTURAL REFERENCES Upon returning to the West we conducted a literature search on cultural ideas pertaining to fertility.

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