The medicalization of birth can vary in multiple ways across cultures, and it is really interesting to actually take a good look at what these differences are. The common story I am used to hearing is a woman’s water breaking, being rushed to the nearest hospital, and birthing the baby at this location. My siblings and I were born in a hospital, most of my friends were born in a hospital….a lot of people around me share this experience. Here in the United States, there is a huge focus on biomedicine in the process of birthing a baby. There are other methods women may select to have their baby, but having the baby in a hospital setting with the assistance of physicians, other health workers, and technology have become the norm. We have almost become in a way dependent. In the Netherlands, hospital births are a common option too, but there are also other popular options. In the “New figures from the Netherlands on the safety of home births” article, it is mentioned that 60.7% of the women surveyed planned to give birth at home, making it the most popular option of the study. However, the Netherlands manages to keep mortality rates low, and there are no noted differences between those who have their baby at home versus a hospital or other location. With available transportation, easy access to health facilities, and trained professionals for whatever birthing option one proceeds with, it is easy to see why the Dutch have been successful with births.
The use of hospitals isn’t the preferred choice for every culture, where tradition plays a major part instead. Looking into the perspective of the Inuit people in Canada, tradition is so important among them. Older experienced women would help the pregnant woman give birth, and the child was always in close proximity to the mother. These women experience comfort and confidence in this option of birthing. When Western medicine was spread to these areas, many women were forced into hospital births, something they didn’t feel was comforting or as rewarding. Although hospital births have become more popular among the Inuit, many women are still supporting the traditions of spiritualized and home birthing. Among the Hmong in Vietnam, similar traditions are practiced with most women choosing to have their babies at home. The family is an important part of life, and the birth of a baby should be celebrated within the home. However, the mortality rate is high, and individuals are encouraged by midwives and others to proceed with having the baby in the hospital. Some people just have a lack of knowledge about the helpful services that the hospital can provide to women in pregnancy, and some families don’t have a means of transportation to a health center; the closest hospital can even be found hours away. But many families have decided that culture and tradition, for them, trumps what any Western idea can offer. Continuing to place value on these traditions while incorporating these new ideas may be what is needed to help combat the mortality rates that some cultures are experiencing.
From things on social media to advertisements to TV in America, I’ve started to believe that the idea of pregnancy is glamorized at many times. We constantly praise the women who remain put together, sexy, and fabulous. It has made me wonder if this has placed any influence on the number of young teens getting pregnant when they aren’t ready. Realistically, this is a tough period to endure and many times you won’t see that in an advertisement. Although the process of having a baby is a beautiful and unexplainable one as I hear, it will not be all rainbows at every moment.