Traditional midwifery Hawaii

At the very heart of midwifery, you will find the Traditional Midwife. All styles of midwife derived from her, as it is one of the oldest professions. A Traditional Midwife is a health caring practitioner who provides individualized support to a woman and her family. This support carries through the year of their pregnancy, the birth of their baby and the early postpartum months. Their focus is on holistic preventative care including: diet and nutritional guidance, herbal and alternative medicine, spirituality and counseling, body work, and basic medical monitoring, all while using traditional health and ceremonial practices that have been passed down through many hundreds of generations. There are a few Traditional Midwives left in the islands who continue to care for women and their families through this manner and right now they feel their right to practice is being jeopardized by new state legislation. They believe amendments need to be made in order for Traditional Midwives to easily continue to exist as a safe option for low risk women. 

Maui residents also feel the need to support diversity and promote the acceptance of indigenous knowledge. The following are statements shared by our community regarding Traditional Midwifery and why we wish to see it continue. 

“The importance of maintaining, encouraging, and perpetuating Traditional Midwifery is at the root of supporting the wellbeing of a family for life. Birthing without tradition has caused great disparities in the women’s bodies, infant health, and family stability. Dismantling midwifery traditions has had continuous traumatic effects upon people of culture and our world at large. Midwifery without tradition is a model based on a system that creates erasure of traditional family systems, starting in pregnancy, while legislation and regulation is a colonial model that makes birth sovereignty illegal.”   Pahnelopi McKensie

“I believe it is unjust to criminalize people who are upholding a standard of care that is healthy, responsible, ancient, and reliable. Traditional Midwives are trained, experienced and qualified to hold their positions amongst our island communities. I value legislation as well as various medical practices that seek to support and protect our communities AND I value traditional lifeways and birthworkers for the vital care they provide. One does not and should not cancel out the other.”   Kyra Glover

“Hawaii needs Traditional Midwives to continue keeping Hawaiian birthing practices alive and well. This is not only important for birthing people but also for the Hawaiian culture as a whole.”   Emma Shotts Schauwecker 

“Our future generations need a choice!!!”   Kawai McEwen

Image Credit: Ki'inaniokalani Kaho'ohanohano

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Ki'inaniokalani Kaho'ohanohano has been practicing Hawaiian cultural traditions of Lomilomi, La'au Lapa'au, Ho'oponopono, for almost 20 years. She began as a Pale Keiki (midwife) assisting home and hospital births 15 years ago, and give thanks for being able to study under some of the most amazing Kupuna of Hawai'i, as well as Aunty Tina Garzero, the infamous Maui midwife.


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