When the Baby Falls!: The Cultural Construction of Miscarriage Among Hmong Women in Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • In this paper, traditional Hmong explanations about miscarriage and the ethnomedical knowledge and practices which pertain to it are explored. They are derived from in-depth interviews and participant observation with the Hmong who are now living in Melbourne, Australia. The loss of pregnancy creates considerable anxiety in Hmong society. This is not only because it calls for a socially justifiable explanation for a family's failure to extend their lineage, but also reduces the venue for a soul to be re-born into the family. This is a threat for Hmong society since it means the extinction of the family, clan and lineage and hence Hmong society. The cultural construction of the causes of miscarriage among the Hmong surrounds two main categories: the natural world which is related to the woman's body and her behaviour; and the supernatural world. These explanations point to the influence that individuals, both living and dead, have on pregnancies. In traditional Hmong society, health is perceived as a harmony between the social, and religious or supernatural realm. A woman being unable to bring forth an offspring because of miscarriage indicates disharmony with the living and/or between the living and the dead.

publication date

  • May 5, 2000