La cuarentena refers to specific cultural rituals for Hispanic mothers and infants during a recovery period of forty days after birth. Traditionally there are a variety of beliefs and practices associated with this time, including dietary, clothing, bathing and other behavioral expectations, but most commonly it refers to a period of sexual abstinence for six weeks of post partum recovery. As health care providers attempt to provide culturally congruent care to a growing immigrant community from Mexico, it is essential to recognize la cuarentena as a time which influences women's health behaviors, particularly in relation to sexual behavior and reproductive health. The purpose of this study is to examine the context of reproductive health outcomes through the documentation of the cultural beliefs and practices of Mexican immigrant women during the six week post partum period called la cuarentena. The study will explore whether, and if so how, this culturally defined period positively influences women to prepare for future pregnancies.
The specific aims of this study are: 1) To catalog the range of beliefs and attitudes associated with la cuarentena, through case studies which will document the breadth and depth of information available from individual informants who are cultural """"""""experts"""""""". 2) To survey the prevalence of the core behaviors and practices of la cuarentena, with particular attention to the practice of sexual abstinence, using survey data which will be gathered to measure whether particular beliefs and behaviors are commonly understood and observed. 3) To study the correlation of la cuarentena with specific reproductive health outcomes, using regression and other forms of statistical analysis to assess the relationship between observance of la cuarentena and successful child spacing. The hypothesis of this study is that supporting women's observance of la cuarentena has the potential to increase effective use of contraception, decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies, and prolong the interconception interval, thereby optimizing birth outcomes for subsequent pregnancies. Absent from the research literature are references to the implications of la cuarentena for clinical practice in reproductive health. While existing studies confirm that the practices of la cuarentena influence women's health behaviors, research has not addressed issues of child spacing and successfully prolonging the interconception interval. Healthy outcomes in subsequent pregnancies are dependent on delayed child spacing, which may be correlated with adherence to the cultural traditions of la cuarentena.