Re: "morning sickness" among Eskimo

Gil Hardwick (
Sat, 06 May 1995 03:59:13 GMT

In article <3nu566$>, Bterr ( writes:
>I doubt if Inuit, Inupiat, and Aleut women are any different from women
>all over the world. Contact the Alaska Area Native Health Service-- Part
>of the USPHS in Anchorage. They will surely be able to answer your
>question quickly.

Even within groups not all women suffer morning sickness. Some do and
some don't, while individually they are sometimes sick and sometimes

This is an extremely important area of research. To do it any justice
the question needs to be expanded to take all these variable factors
into account, and some sort of working model established to inform
the line of enquiry.

It seems to me a far more fruitful strategy to examine the incidence
of morning sickness in women generally, before making any comparisons
between different groups. But that is rather a medical problem as

It would be of greater anthropological interest to build a correlative
understanding of the different management practices women use. How
does the pattern of obligation to care for pregnant women manifest in
the society? What herbs and other women's dietary items are set aside
for them? Who among the senior women is most skilled in the area of
women's health care, and who among the younger women are taking time
out to learn from them?

Finally, and I suspect this is part of the initial query above, how
fit are these women? How is their muscle tone, particularly around
the pelvic floor, and what is their general physical condition?

I am absolutely certain that medical practitioners would themselves be
very interested indeed in this sort of information. In many areas of
the world, Australia by no means excluded, the situation arising from
the system of institutionalised health care which treats healthy women
as "patients"; as ill just because they are pregnant with child, has
become critical.

Here we have women from the affluent sector routinely in labour for as
long as 29 hours and up to 3 days, often requiring general anaesthesia
and extensive nursing care in recovery. My wife on the other hand is
from a traditional Chinese village, and she cooked up the herbs as
well as keeping in touch with the village women by phone all through
both pregnancies; our first son took 7 1/2 hours, and the second only
90 minutes.

Beyond that she didn't consider it to be any of my business, being
merely the husband and of limited usefulness and all that, while at
once taking pains to see that I was being fed the right herbs and
men's food myself to ensure that I remained fit and healthy. Keeping
the lead in my pencil, as the saying goes . . .

Other women here from rural areas ride their bicycles right up to
within a week of term, are out in the fresh air and eating plenty of
fresh green vegetables and high-fibre foods, and liberally add herbs
to their diet. In combatting morning sickness they eat many small
meals throughout the day, especially a snack late at night, rather
than try to eat 2-3 large meals and then fast.

It must be noted moreover that it is a highly social event, with many
other women on hand and limited access to a doctor. And only a female
doctor at that!

They tell me also that they try to keep the baby's weight down so it
is not too big at birth, then eat up so as to provide an abundance of
milk to make it grow quickly post partum. But ours were both 4 Kg at
birth without any problems, so maybe that is an individual thing.

Anyway, they have few problems with morning sickness and none at all
with the actual birthing; typically well within 10-12 hours in labour
and back home again the next day.

He who refuses to qualify data is doomed to rant.
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