Innu Approaches to Supporting Pregnancy and Birthing

Examples of Holistic FASD Prevention in Practice

Developing specialized, culturally safe, and holistic support for pregnant women is an important strategy in preventing FASD [1]. In Labrador, Thea Penashue and June Fry of the Innu Roundtable Secretariat are bringing Innu midwifery and parenting back to Sheshatshiu and Mushuau Innu First Nations through two initiatives.

Centering Pregnancy was introduced in Sheshatshiu in 2018 to increase access to and use of primary prenatal care. The project was born from dialogues between the Innu Round Table Secretariat, Innu Health Directors, the Regional Health Board, physicians, and public health nurses. Centering Pregnancy is a group pregnancy outreach program where women can access prenatal group education, health assessments, and social support. The program promotes relationship-building by allowing participants to bring supports with them to the group sessions and encouraging discussion and bonding between women within the program. Expectant mothers have autonomy and control in their care in addition to support from a health care worker [2].

The Innu Midwifery Project aims to reintroduce traditional midwifery to Sheshatshiu and Natuashish, drawing on Innu Elders’ knowledge of Innu birthing practices. The project is being done in collaboration with Gisela Becker, the Chief Midwife for Newfoundland and Labrador, to support the training Innu midwives using a culturally-specific, hands-on, individually paced learning approach. Reintroducing midwifery to the Innu First Nations will result in Innu children being born on Innu lands, fostering a greater connection to the land and culture, continuation of cultural practices and culturally safe care, and empowering women in the context of their pregnancy.

Credit: “A Guide to the Innu Care Approach” from the Innu Round Table Secretariat website [5].

These initiatives create a safer environment for Innu women to discuss their health. Based in and driven by the communities and culture, these programs are centered around women, their families, and the communities [3].

Thea Penashue, the Community Wellness Systems Navigator at the Innu Round Table Secretariat, delivered her second child in a tshuap, a traditional Innu tent, in September. She hopes that, through the Midwifery project and Centering Pregnancy program, more Innu women will be able to give birth in a tshuap, connecting to their land, culture, and sense of self as Innu people, in the company of their loved ones [4].

Credit “A Guide to the Innu Care Approach” from the Innu Round Table Secretariat website [5].

1. Canada FASD Research Network’s Action Team on FASD Prevention from a Women’s Health Determinants Perspective, 2013. PREVENTION Of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) A Multi-Level Model. [online] Available at: <https://canfasd.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/PREVENTION-of-Fetal-Alcohol-Spectrum-Disorder-FASD-A-multi-level-model.pdf&gt; [Accessed 24 September 2020].

2. Centering Healthcare Institute. n.d. Centering Pregnancy | Centering Healthcare Institute. [online] Available at: <https://www.centeringhealthcare.org/what-we-do/centering-pregnancy&gt; [Accessed 24 September 2020].

3. Network Action Team on FASD prevention, 2010. Consensus Statement On 10 Fundamental Components Of FASD Prevention From A Women’S Health Determinants Perspective. [online] Canada Northwest FASD Research Network. Available at: <https://canfasd.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ConsensusStatement.pdf&gt; [Accessed 24 September 2020].

4. CBC, 2020. This Mom Is Bringing Back An Innu Tradition, By Giving Birth In A Tent To Connect With Her Roots. [online] Available at: <https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/penashue-tent-birth-1.5713780&gt; [Accessed 24 September 2020].

5. Innu Round Table Secretariat, 2017. A Guide To The Innu Care Approach. [online] Available at: <http://www.irtsec.ca/2016/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/A-Guide-to-the-Innu-Care-Approach-Dec-2017.pdf&gt; [Accessed 24 September 2020].

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