Blog #3: Transition to Medicalized Birth – Abby Bixler

PART ONE: This week we are comparing how birth has been medicalized differently in the Netherlands, among the Inuit, Vietnam and the United States. In the United States, birth did not become medicalized until about 1920, which really is not too long ago. Men were the ones to be considered doctors. Doctors were far from what we think of today. Midwives competed with what we would call biomedical doctors. Birth was a normal part of family life then, not having to do anything medically. Before, midwives and family births were very popular. Today, it would be extremely uncommon because we have shaped our culture around relying on doctors to guide us through birth. Just like birth moved from family life to medical field, death did too.

The Netherlands was late to shift over to the medical side of birth and death. Midwives would still assist with births into the late 20’s. Meantime, in the United States, midwives were extremely undercover as if they performed assistance without a license, they would be put in jail. Only doctors who went to medical school were allowed. A recent study was taken between 2000 and 2006 and the results shocked me. The study showed that a shocking 60% of women planned to give birth at home while only 40% planned to do so at the hospital. It was found that more babies that were born at home were sent to the ICU compared to ones that were born in the hospital under a doctors care. A different study was assessed by de Jonge A, et al. and it was found that there was an equal number of babies that died or were admitted to the ICU in both groups. At this point, it is unclear whether home or hospital births are safe. In their eyes, they do not have enough proof of one being better than the other. They want women to be able to choose granted that the home is fully equipped for homebirths. At this point in time, they are still researching. I found this extremely surprising that they are so much “behind” – for lack of a better term (De Jonge A, et al., 2009).

The Inuit way is even fonder of homebirths than the Netherlands. The Inuit way is a culture based on working together and this meant family bonding. So, this goes the same for childbirth. Among the Inuit, it is a cooperative responsibility. Traditionally, the Inuit would have their babies wherever. When in labor, other women family members would help with the delivery. The Canadian government would soon end this “convenience”. They encouraged them to instead stop into churches, schools and/or health centers. They wanted more control over the situation. Today, these establishments are still being used. They needed to switch from their traditional beliefs to more of a “westernized” belief. It is difficult for other cultures to grasp this shift as they are so accustomed to Inuit midwife culture (Inuit Midwives).

Today, it is extremely common in Vietnam for midwives to use a combination of western medicine and traditional healing methods. Doing this, they have found that this reduces the number of deaths at birth. In Vietnam, westernized medical traditions are frowned upon as it destroys the importance of the placenta. These unique midwives take both ideas into considerations while respecting Vietnamese spiritual association with the placenta and making sure that it is taken care of (Vietnam’s Traveling Midwives).


De Jonge A. “New Figures from the Netherlands on the Safety of Home Births.” – News. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2015.

“Inuit Midwives – The Evolution of Inuit Women’s Birthing Practices in Northern Canada – The Health EZine.” Inuit Midwives – The Evolution of Inuit Womens Birthing Practices in Northern Canada – The Health EZine. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2015.

“Vietnam’s Travelling Midwives.” NEW DOCS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 July 2015.




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Above, you can see I found a picture of a happy mom, doctor, husband and a newborn baby. Why? Because this scenario is a perfect depiction of how birth in America is often thought as. This particular picture definitely reinforces the shift to medicalized birth. Here, you can see that the mom trusts the doctor.  I’m sure the mother and father went through a lot of research and met a lot of different doctors to make a smart decision on who they felt most comfortable with.  They want to feel at ease knowing that an educated doctor will care for the baby and the mother during the process. This is what automatically comes to mind when I think of birth, and most importantly, I picture it in a hospital setting. Other countries would look at this picture and think that we have shifted too far from traditional ways but its all culture and what you are surrounded with. In conclusion, I think mothers in the United States rely deeply on educated doctors to help them during this special life event as seen in the picture.

4 thoughts on “Blog #3: Transition to Medicalized Birth – Abby Bixler

  1. Part 1:
    Before this week of class I thought all first world countries have newborn babies in hospitals. The Netherlands is a great example on how I was wrong. In this day more than half of all newborns in the Netherlands are born at home. I figured all European countries are like us! When you compared the two studies about home and hospital births it’s interesting how much the results completely clash with one another. It’s probably safer to have a baby in a hospital because say you run into complications something needs to be done immediately!

    Part 2:
    Your explanation about this picture and our American biomedicine system makes me think of my dad. My dad was having problems with his hips, more especially his right side. He and my mom searched for a very experienced surgeon. They went to multiple unsuccessful visits, until they heard two references for a specific doctor. The surgery happened last May. My dad is beyond grateful for that surgery, enough he’s getting the same surgery for his left hip this September! I know other cultures, such as Hmong, would apply traditional spiritual events for this scenario. I don’t know if they actually work, but they must work somehow or how else would they still believe?

  2. While reading your post I began to think of the relationships in the United States and the problems we seem to have with vulnerability. Nothing has changed about birth other than the fact that we have changed our definition of what we believe to be “medical”. It shocked me that midwives and doctors did not see the value they could have to each other like they have in other countries like the Netherlands. I can’t help but laugh somewhat at thinking that the United States in efforts to try and “advance” and “be the best” that we make things so much harder for ourselves. When speaking about the study you found stating that more babies that were born at home ended up going to the ICU, I would like to study the circumstances and why that would have happened. My concern is that this country as put such a stigma on midwives and their practice that the ability to even teach the art is being lost. I believe people think of at home births as archaic and I don’t agree. I think the hospital setting in your picture is only one happy outcome and doesn’t mean it is right for everyone.

    Sara Burnosky

    • I do not think a hospital setting is right for everyone either, Sara. Of course people have the right to make their own decision which we often take forgranted. I just wanted to point out that I had mentioned that most people here in the United States give birth in a hospital setting. Also, I believe at home births are acceptable as long as the home is properly equipped to execute a safe birth. The reason I picked out the picture is because that is my perception of birth as I would put all my trust in a doctor I did lots of research on!

  3. As I was reading your blog post this week, I found that I too had quite a few of the same first impressions when reading about home births prior to this week. I was quite surprised that so many cultures and countries still participated in home births, and that just shows how accustomed I have become to Americanized healthcare systems. All in all, I believe now that home births can be just as successful as hospital births when done correctly, especially in a country where the people delivering are very skilled at their job. It would also be interesting to know the circumstances behind what caused the ICU visits, and whether or not it is in relation to how skilled the midwife or birthing helper is. Your picture is one that I would think of, if someone asked me to describe a picture perfect birth, and I believe that in some cases it is true, while other cases could be completely different. Some people may argue as well that pictures of perfect births such as that one lead to the glamorization of pregnancy and childbirth while it leaves out all of the struggles that come with it.

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