Anthropology and international health : Asian case studies by Mark Nichter; Mimi Nichter

By Mark Nichter; Mimi Nichter

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Literacy in itself provides one with an equal opportunity to both education and miseducation, in accord with the range of information available to read. In the Sri Lankan context, more information of dubious scientific merit is available on sexuality than information on fertility which addresses lay concerns in a manner which is culturally responsive and 22 ANTHROPOLOGY AND INTERNATIONAL HEALTH understandable. 35 3. By not addressing lay ideas about the ethnophysiology of fertility, current family planning education is less effective than it could be.

Notably, almost 50% of the respondents believed that a woman is fertile during the first seven days after the start of the menstrual period. Maynard-Tucker (1989) reports that in Peru a significant percentage of her sample believed that a woman was most fertile during her menstruation. In one of the few studies to investigate both women’s and men’s views, she found that between 44% and 49% of her informants shared this perception. Of a sample of users of “natural methods,” 88% of couples practiced sexual abstinence during menses which they described as the rhythm CULTURAL NOTIONS OF FERTILITY IN SOUTH ASIA 9 method (el ritmo, la regla).

1978). 22. Data presented in Ross et al. (1992) suggest that exclusive breastfeeding in Sri Lanka, even during the first four months, is not common. 23. In developing countries, where lactating mothers are undernourished and have more limited milk production, the introduction of supplementary foods to infants after each breastfeed may not diminish the number of suckling epi sodes. Vis (1985) has suggested that in such cases, supplementation may not influence milk production and prolactin levels.

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