Wairua and Birthing

Nan, Hori, Wiremu and Tawatihitihi o te Rawhitiroa

Pregnancy and birth are key times in the lives of mothers, babies and their whānau. Some whānau have the resources and life contexts that enable them to understand and experience pregnancy and birth using Māori concepts, frameworks and practices.

Other Māori experience pregnancy and birth within a largely Western or mainstream biomedical system of processes and practices, without recourse to Māori knowledge or support. Most likely, many more have experiences that sit somewhere along a continuum between these different systems of knowledge, theory and practice.

Even when pregnancy and birth pathways appear well aligned with mainstream practices, we should not assume whānau experiences are devoid of what it means to be Māori; a key aspect of this is wairua.

Wairua is experienced and enacted in all situations, explicitly and implicitly, and with profound impacts on how whānau navigate services and experience this critical life stage.

Simmonds, 2014


A Wairua Approach provides a powerful way of understanding experiences, practices and relationships in the context of Māori pregnancy and birthing, with significant implications for the health and wellbeing of mothers, babies and whānau. By openly choosing to discuss and examine wairua in research, we can reclaim, rediscover and reimagine what it is to be Māori and consider the transformative potential to whānau wellbeing of wairua as it is experienced and expressed within maternity contexts.

This year I want to explore more about what a Wairua Approach means in the area of maternal health. I have been awarded seeding funding from Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga, which will begin in March to support a 6-month project within Te Rōpū Whāriki, College of Health, Massey University. I will be working alongside Dr Naomi Simmonds who is a senior lecturer and researcher with Te Awanuiarangi. I will also be receiving guidance from Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes.

This research is about building capacity and capability towards developing a Wairua Approach to Māori understandings, experiences, practices and relationships involved in pregnancy and birthing.

The focus is to develop and inform research through literature, engagement and collaboration with Māori experts, practitioners and communities in the field of Māori, pregnancy and birthing, and explore current initiative and developments within diverse maternity spaces.

A Wairua Approach is fundamentally about reclaiming what is important to us as Māori, and as Māori researchers who no longer agree (explicitly or implicitly) with ‘leaving wairua at the door’ of the academy, or in fact the hospital or any other part of our lives.


Published by Tākuta Teah

Indigenous woman, partner, māmā, sister, daughter, aunty, artist, story catcher/teller, researcher, evaluator and academic. I draw on these identities to express, connect and articulate kotahitanga, mana motuhake and aroha.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: