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The meaning and usefulness of the concept of cross-cultural childbirth is questioned in this paper. Intracultural variations within Southern African Black women's experiences of childbirth are utilized to explore the validity of the cross-cultural concept. The question of universality or diversity of birth experiences is discussed. Possible universal elements of birth are suggested while factors determining variations in these experiences are proposed.
1. Brindley, M. Old women in Zulu culture: The old woman and childbirth. S.Afr. J. Ethnol., 8 (1985) 98-108.
2. Gumede, M.V. Traditional Zulu practitioners and obstetric medicine. S.Afr. Med. J., 53 (1978) 823-827.
3. Larsen, J.V., Msane, C.L. and Monkhe, M.C. The Zulu traditional birth attendant. S.Afr. Med. J., 63 (1983) 540-542.
4. Chalmers, B. African Birth: Childbirth in Cultural Transition. Berev Publications, Sandton, 1990.
5. Chalmers, B. Pregnancy and Parenthood: Heaven or Hell. Berev Publications, Sandton, 1990.
Beverley Chalmers, Ph.D.
Dr. Beverley Chalmers is a professor of psychology at the School of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg, South Africa. She researches the psychosocial aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and the early stages of parenthood. She is particularly interested in the cross-cultural issues in this field. She is the author of Pregnancy and Parenthood: Heaven or Hell (1984) and African Birth: Childbirth in Cultural Transition (1990). She has also, together with G.J. Hofmeyr, produced a video entitled "Miscarriage: A Crisis Discarded" (University of Witwatersrand, CTV Services, 1989). This article is based upon a paper given at the International Conference on Childbearing and Perinatal Care, Jerusalem, in 1987, and was published as a pamphlet by The Institute for the Study of Man in Africa in 1987.
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