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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Plants used during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum healthcare in Lao PDR: A comparative study of the Brou, Saek and Kry ethnic groups

  • Author(s): de Boer, Hugo
  • Lamxay, Vichith
  • et al.

Abstract Background In many Southeast Asian cultures the activities and diet during the postpartum period are culturally dictated and a period of confinement is observed. Plants play an important role in recovery during the postpartum period in diet, traditional medicine, steam bath and mother roasting (where mother and child placed on a bed above a brazier with charcoal embers on which aromatic plants are laid). This research focuses on the use of plants during pregnancy, parturition, postpartum recovery and infant healthcare among three ethnic groups, the Brou, Saek and Kry. It aims to identify culturally important traditions that may facilitate implementation of culturally appropriate healthcare. Methods Data were collected in 10 different villages in Khammouane province, Lao PDR, through group and individual interviews with women by female interviewers. Results A total of 55 different plant species are used in women's healthcare, of which over 90% are used in postpartum recovery. Consensus Analysis rejects the hypothesis that the three ethnic groups belong to a single culture for postpartum plant use, and multidimensional scaling reveals non-overlapping clusters per ethnic group. Conclusion Medicinal plant use is common among the Brou, Saek and Kry to facilitate childbirth, alleviate menstruation problems, assist recovery after miscarriage, mitigate postpartum haemorrhage, aid postpartum recovery, and for use in infant care. The wealth of novel insights into plant use and preparation will help to understand culturally important practices such as confinement, dietary restrictions, mother roasting and herbal steam baths and their incorporation into modern healthcare.

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