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Assisted Reproductive Technologies in the Eyes of Ladinos and Mayans

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Guatemala consists of two main ethnic groups, Ladinos and Mayans. Ladino and Latino are different. Ladino, is a word tied to race, whereas the term Latino is solely linked to heritage. Ladino is a term used in Guatemala for a Spanish-speaking person of ‘mixed blood’, namely a person of mixed European and indigenous Central American ancestry; whereas Mayan is a term used for indigenous Central American natives.

The two ethnic groups differ sharply on many factors, particularly with regard to family, religion, cultural practices, marriage and having children.

Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are medical procedures used primarily to address infertility. It includes procedures such as in vitro fertilisation and conception by third party involvement.

While bringing hope to millions of infertile people worldwide, ARTS are also associated with many religious, ethnical, and social considerations and complications. For this reason scientists worldwide have been studying the public perceptions, behaviour and consequences of children born by ART.

Remarkably, no scientific research has been done on Ladino’s and Mayan’s perceptions, behaviour and consequences of the ART experience in spite of the fact that Guatemala is on the list of the top 48 nations offering ART.

I have therefore initiated the first systematic research on Ladino’s and Mayan’s perception, behaviour and consequences of ART. The first stage of my research is on perception of children born by ART. It is a known fact that many times new innovations are not immediately accepted by the public. For example, in relation to human conception, the 18th century invention of artificial insemination introduced a host of legal, ethical and social controversies extending to the 21st century.

So, understanding how the two main ethnic groups in Guatemala perceive and have knowledge of the new advances in fertility treatment would be the first logical step of my research.

I have now collected data from Guatemala on a sample of 200 participants at two main universities. The preliminary analysis of the results to date shows an opposing pattern between Mayans and Ladinos:

  •  Mayans, compared to Ladinos, have more negative perceptions maintaining that a child born by ART may have a lower IQ, will have more medical complications, will have psychological problems and may be rejected by the society.
  • Mayans, compared to Ladinos, have greater distrust of Western medicine, maintaining that a child born by ART may develop side effects like deformities.
  • Ladinos maintained that any medical complications are due to chance and not specifically related to ART.
  • Mayans rated themselves significantly more knowledgeable about ART than Ladinos.

The findings from stage 1 of my PhD will then set a good criteria to plan the next stage of the PhD, which will be looking at the behaviour of couples (of Mayan and Ladino ethnic backgrounds) involved in ART treatments. More specifically, the psychological and social factors affecting at pre-post stages of ART treatments.

The final stage of my work will focus on psychological and social consequences of children born by ART of Ladino and Mayan descent.

The overall findings from my PhD should have implications for practitioners and those involved in infertility treatment in giving the best advice to their patients in the pursuit of achieving their goals.


Image credit: Freepik

Cecilia Isabel Urrutia is a doctoral researcher at Middlesex University in London working on perceptions, behaviour and consequences of children born by ART in Guatemala.

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