Sue Hanley, a midwife with experience in Sudan and Kenya, provides some helpful answers to Dorothy’s problems, concerning traditional practices at birth in the area of Cuzco, Peru (Footsteps No. 4).

Dear Dorothy,
You certainly have a problem – four in fact – so I’ll take each one in turn:

1. Couldn’t you get the local midwives, or those helping the delivery, to tie the belt a little higher, i.e. above the uterus and just below the ribs, where it shouldn’t interfere with the last stage of labour?

2. It does not really matter if the cord is cut with a piece of tile or pottery, as long as it is sharp and it has been sterilised. I think that you should concentrate your efforts on these, rather than trying to persuade people to use something else.

3. If there are other nutritious foods for the mother to eat, does it really matter if she doesn’t eat those you mentioned?

4. Staying in bed for 15 days seems to be the biggest problem. Could you use the argument that their body is always “open”, as they must realise when they menstruate? Does the uterus become infected at this time too? My only other suggestion is that you choose a lady, as an example, who has not stayed in bed for 15 days after the delivery and is fit and well.

I hope these suggestions are of some help!