Blog 3 – Birth Through Cultural Lenses – Claire Walker

Medicalization of birth is just as subject as the idea of birth itself between cultures. In modern America birth has become a very impersonal process, more attention is given to the medical health of the mother and Baby than is given to the psychological and spiritual health of the family. To many, that is not necessarily the best course of action. It is no surprise that as man has evolved so has medicine and how it is applied to life, but it definitely is not the same from culture to culture.

The Inuit women held the idea that birth was a very spiritual time and tried to maintain their practices as long as possible (Davis 1999). As Western medicine and ideas started to spread to the north, they forced Inuit women to give birth in hospitals. As time went on and the people stood up for their beliefs, medicine adapted to the needs of the culture. This same idea of medicalization is being put into practice in Vietnam with the Hmong people. Westernized medicine is trying to convince the Hmong people that the hospital is safest for the mother and her child (The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam). In the cases of the Hmong and Inuit people birth is something a family shares with their ancestors, but in return for this spirituality of birth the infant mortality rate is extremely high. Westernized medicine believed it was stepping in and changing these people for the better, but, like in the case of the Intuits, medicine will need to adapt to the needs of the Hmong people.

The Netherlands is a very industrialized country that has been using westernized medicine for centuries. Unlike America, The Netherlands has allowed the practice of home births to evolve and be equal to births in hospitals. The difference is the Netherlands has a much better infant mortality rate compared to America. The Netherlands has combined the ideas of privacy and family with the safety of medicine.

The medicalization of American Birth seems to have taken away any form of comfort, privacy, family, and spirituality out the birthing process. Everything about pregnancy and birth has become cold and calculating. So much is focused on simply keeping the baby and mother alive that no attention is paid to the comfort or emotional well being of either party. A woman giving birth in her home with the care of a well-known midwife will be far more comfortable than the girl on a medical table in a paper gown. I have experienced a lot of this coldness personally as I helped a friend get through a teen pregnancy in High School. Her parents had kicked her out and my parents paid for medical attention, often the doctors would not allow me to go in with because I was not a family member. These situations made it hard for my friend to stay calm and often made her feel uncomfortable and distrusting of the doctors seeing her. None of the doctors seemed to care that she was a terrified sixteen year old being left alone.





I chose this image because despite the coldness of medicine and birth in America, there still seems to be an idea of beauty around pregnant women. Pregnant women themselves are viewed as being strong and beautiful, especially when they keep up with the busy world we live. America has applied a lot of glamor to fairly unglamorous biological process. Photography, magazine covers, even fashion lines are based on the pregnant female form, even a concept of sex appeal as been added to pregnant women. It also proves that celebrates often have unrealistic beauty standards compared to the average woman, or pregnant woman.


2 thoughts on “Blog 3 – Birth Through Cultural Lenses – Claire Walker

  1. I appreciated that you mentioned the Netherlands has a lower infant mortality rate than the United States, and that almost have of the people living in the Netherlands gives birth at home, and the other half in a hospital. Why do you think that their infant death rate is better than the United States? Do you think that with less hospitalization comes less elected surgical birth, and with that less complications? Or would you even go as far to say that the spirituality, and mental wellbeing of mom and family at home births could attribute to this death rate difference?
    I also really value your experience with your friend, and that you witnessed first hand how impersonalized the birthing experience can be, not even allowing the closest friends into a medical room even with the expectant mothers success.
    It is also interesting that in the U.S., we sexualize and glamorize pregnancy, yet depersonalize and institutionalize it at the same time.

  2. I really liked how you tied in your own experience with the birth process with your friend into this topic. It truly puzzles me as to why it was not her choice as to whether or not you could be there to support her while in the doctors. That concerns me because as long as the patient gives consent for her comfort and her well being it should not be a problem, and is not up to the nurses or doctors in this case. Do you think this is something that is something that hospitals/doctors offices need to change, especially in certain situations?
    I also like how you mentioned that the birth process how it has become very impersonal here in America unlike a lot of the cultures we read about this week. Do you think making the hospital experience more personal and catering to cultures would be beneficial or more detrimental to the health care system?

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