African-American Rt Pregnancy Delivery and Neonatal Period Term Paper

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African-American R/T pregnancy, delivery and neonatal period

The paper describes how African-Americans adapt to the stimuli of pregnancy, labor, delivery and the neonatal period. It discusses practices, rituals and beliefs common to the culture and how they have adapted to meet the cultural and environmental needs of the mother.

African-Americans are a strong and vibrant community in the American societal setup. Their culture derives from their ancestral African origins which have shaped themselves according to the demands of changing time and evolving mankind. However, the essence of many of the rituals, a fundamental part of their traditions, has withstood the inquisitions of the logical mind.

Motherhood is a special institution in African culture. Mothers are often the building blocks for social relationships, identities and hence of society itself.

Fraternal bonds, on many occasions derive from mother and the institution of Motherhood. (Oyewumi, 2003) Therefore it should not come as a surprise that the African culture has evolved various rituals and practices to prepare for and celebrate the attainment of this sacred institution.

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Like other rites of passage, birth is assigned its own specific rituals, deriving their origin from ancient African religions. These rituals have passed into the African-American life, celebrating pregnancy, commemorating delivery and dealing with post delivery psychological dilemmas.

Some have attracted a great deal of attention in contemporary societies in the western world.

Below are discussed some of the most common ways in which African-American culture has adapted to the stimuli of pregnancy, labor, delivery and the neonatal period.


Term Paper on African-American Rt Pregnancy Delivery and Neonatal Period Assignment

The Blessingway ceremony is a prenatal ceremony which was developed by the Najavo people. "In its myths and chants, it chronicles the birth and puberty of Changing Woman." (Baker) This ancient tradition of preparing the expectant mother for the process of child birth has evolved over time by midwives to create new birthing rituals. It takes place around the ninth month of pregnancy and aims at preparing the expectant mother for the future ordeal of labor and delivery.

It underscores the status of mother, so inherently ingrained in African psychology by honoring her through poems and the presentation of trinkets, to highlight her role in the natural process of birthing. It also reiterates the support of the community for the pregnant woman by the simple act of gathering together to honor the beginning of life and its mentor. It convinces her in the trust that the community holds for her in the task ahead by accepting and celebrating her role as the "co-creatix." (Baker)

Blessingway has taken the place of baby shower in many households, focusing more on the mother and preparing her for a "journey towards birth and motherhood." (Bellyblessing celebrations, 2005).

Since it focuses on community participation many people are invited. The ceremony can be solely for females or might also allow participation of male members of the family. The father is often included so as to give him a feeling of involvement in the birthing rituals of his child and to make him a more "conscious birth-partner." Everyone brings a small gift for the mother, a token to her honored status. Many a times, poems, songs and dances are presented, more in conformity with the ancient traditional Blessingway ceremonies where special songs and mantras were chanted in honor of the mother. More standard baby shower items are also presented as an adaptation to the modern baby shower ceremonies. The location of the ceremony is determined by the mother and an altar is set up, often by the mother herself. Special birthing beads, reminiscent of a midwife in an African tribe, are placed on the altar. The mother holds the beads during the ceremony and then also during childbirth. She adds a bead and returns it to the midwife or the person in attendance. Ancient gods and goddesses deriving from folklores are made a part of the ceremony by expressing their presence using symbols of stones, pearls and exquisite items. Some special items are placed alongside the mother, including a bowl of cornmeal and all the guests and the mother are smudged with incense. Prayers follow and ritual grooming precedes the washing and the anointment of the mother with oil. Gifts are then given and some physical remnants of the ceremony are saved until the mother has given birth.(Baker)

The ceremony acts as a template to the actual process of child birth from the beginning to the end. Blessingway raises the status of the birthing process from a simple physical exercise to a much deeper source of spiritual awakening, empowering the woman who is giving birth.

Also, more importantly, the Blessingway ceremony also addresses the prospects of the birth of a dead child and hence, allays or rather strengthens the woman in the wake of any tragedy. (Baker) Robbie Davis Floyd, the author of Birth as an American Rite of Passage says "Aware of the possibility of death at birth, women can adapt the Blessingway to honor their experiences of grief and loss, and to facilitate their adaptation to this unexpected and dreadful reality."


Postpartum depression (PPD) is defined as the development of mood disturbance two weeks to one year after delivery, with symptoms most often found during the third through ninth postpartum months. (Amankwaa, 2003)

This language of depression, according to Barbee is culturally constructed and for African-American women, this phase after delivery is expressed in the cultural symbol of blues music. For African-American women, depression is a sign of mental inability and lack of faith in God or even worse a sign of being posessed by demons which altogether is a sufficient prerequisite for the disgrace of a person in society. In African-American women, the post delivery period is considered a time for introspection and spiritual renewal. Amankwaa further goes on to say,

There may also be a distinctive language for African-American women in relationship to depression and postpartum depression that is grounded in their Afrocentric world-view. African-American women with an Afrocentric epistemological world-view, according to Warren (1994), are concerned with family and group survival in American society. This worldview emphasizes one's spirituality, interdependence within elements of the universe with less emphasis placed on material goods (Schiele, 1994). Accordingly, this worldview may have some bearing on African-American women's ways of experiencing depression, as well as their ways of experiencing postpartum depression." (2003)

African-American women's dealing with post partum depression rests a lot on the stereotypical symbolism of the role of a mother. Trying to live up to the ideals of "Super Woman" and "Strong Black Woman," leave the woman with a guilty feeling, further accentuating her depression. Also, the traditional stigmas attached to depression, a result of both ancient african customs and also the historical treatment of African-Americans on the basis of their mental health, because of its connotations to madness, make the women cautious in revealing their state of mind to outsiders. Such beliefs hinder the process of diagnosis and hence, treatment of the situation. According to a recent Surgeon General's report, "African-American patients tend to be diagnosed less accurately when suffering from depression....or when they were seen for a psychiatric evaluation in an emergency room." The relationship between weakness and depression which is not considered as a disease at all, results in the denial of any such state by the women which leads to a progression of their depression. Mistrust of the medical system, a relic of the post slavery era lands African-American women into further bouts of anxiety prolonging their postpartum periods. (Amankwaa, 2003)

Marsella et al. noted that ceremonies and rituals marking special occasions (birth of a child in this case) helped relieve grief and depression. (Amankwaa, 2003) In African societies, elaborate ceremonies are planned at the birth of a child to relieve the mother of the depression that she might go through during the time when her… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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