Around the World Series | Traditional Māori postpartum practices

This month, we delve into the postpartum traditions of the Māori people, recognising the significance of embracing diverse cultural practices to provide support to mothers during their postpartum journey.

Māori individuals relate back to the concept of 'Te Whare Tapa Whā', which simply recognises four elements of health; te taha wairua (a spiritual dimension), te taha hinengaro (a psychic dimension), te taha tinana (a bodily dimension), te taha whanau (a family dimension). These four dimensions working harmoniously together are believed to be a core component to postpartum care within Māori culture.

For a mother to be in touch with her spiritual dimension 'te taha wairua', many Māori women feel the need to be connected with their body in order to deliver baby naturally. This spiritual connection will encourage the mother to deliver baby within a safe environment.

In regards to the mother's physical health 'te taha tinana', the mother is reminded to take care of her body. Proper care, love and nutrients will nourish the baby as the baby grows. This is a common postpartum concept followed by Chinese confinement as well as other traditional cultures. These traditional cultures understand the power that food holds in nourishing a mother, helping them to recover post birth.

The psychological 'te taha hinengaro' dimension focuses on the mother's emotional wellbeing, recognising the risk of postnatal depletion and postnatal depression. Being actively aware of your emotions as a mother will foster a great bond between the mother, the baby and family.

The last element of health; family health 'te taha whanau' focuses on the importance of maintaining family relationships. This allows family members to fulfil a role within the family. Relatives and loved ones can provide assistance and apply personal experiences through advice to the new mother, giving the new mother reassurance and support as she transitions into motherhood.

In traditional Māori culture, women are one of the core elements of a family. Wāhine hapū (translated to pregnant women), are supported and cared by their families, their main priority is to provide a successful birth and healthy baby.

Traditionally Māori mothers delivered their babies in a shelter constructed and built intentionally to accommodate the new mother during her pregnancy journey. Nowadays, Māori mothers feel drawn to birthing at a place of significance to them individually, whether it be their family home or on ancestral land.

During the labour and birthing period, "karakia" (prayers) are recited to call upon spiritual guidance. This ritual is carried out to safe guard the mother and baby during delivery.

Post birth Māori mothers are encouraged to return the placenta back to mother land, and mothers would simply bury their placenta. This ritual highlights the gratitude they hold for the land they live on, and for all the living things present today.

By understanding and embracing these postpartum traditions, we can collectively support mothers during their postpartum journey, fostering a sense of community and well-being.


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