Reinforcing all that we have learned about culture and society shaping common ideals and beliefs; ideas surrounding birth are no different. Where, and more importantly, who you are surrounded with determines what you believe to be ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’. In the Netherlands, it is normal for a woman to choose if she wants to deliver her baby in her home, or at a medical facility. de Jonge A., et al. discussed that of women who had low risk pregnancies, an astounding 60% planned to give birth at home(de Jonge A., et al, 2009). Even better news, statistics regarding the infant mortality rate between home births and hospital births showed no significant differences, therefore supporting low risk mothers to have the right to choose her birthplace. This proves that the people of this culture trust the women to make health decisions for themselves, and believe that medicine should be used when necessary, and gone without under low risk conditions.
Among the Inuit people, babies historically were birthed in the home, with the help of experienced elders. In 1950 nurses from the United Kingdom came in, and set up nursing stations to assist with the birthing process making it more medicalized. In 1973, a study proved that birthing at home was an adequate way of safely delivering a baby, yet in 1980, 98% of pregnant women were evacuated, and sent to a medical facility to give birth often times tearing a woman from her family, other children, and overall culture itself causing unnecessary stress. This way of shipping woman away basically against their will proves that not much trust is put into Inuit woman, and that the urbanized people ‘know’ what’s best. Betty-Anne Davis discussed the eight different classified types of logic regarding birth in relation to Inuit birth. She discussed that based on a person’s culture, all eight viewpoints can be justified.
Merilynne Rush discussed viewing death in the United States. She views the U.S. as having a “death denying culture”, explaining that death has become such a scary, painful, depersonalized process, handing it off to other people, whether it be care takers, morticians, funeral homes, ect. This is also, in a sense, how we have been treating birth, very depersonalized, and very medical. Almost all sense of personality, and individuality is stripped. Unnecessary, elected surgery allowed in situations where it may not be the healthiest choice, but maybe the least ‘painful’. Putting woman into sterile white medical rooms with ice cold stirrups and medically unnecessary drugs is what comes to my mind when thinking about birth in U.S culture.
In Vietnam Ahlmark, Nick, and Nicole Precel displayed how a very traditional, at home experience birth is; in transition to now bringing in midwives, and turning to a more medicalized way of bringing life into the world. A midwife in, The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam, made a shocking seventeen dollars a month to provide her maternity advice and services to expecting mothers. In the video, it was very evident that families play a major role in deciding what kind of birth to have, emphasizing the spiritual importance of having an at home birth, and burying the placenta underneath the mothers bed for infant health. This showed that a very meaningful, beautiful, individualized process is being turned into a medical process, which may save lives, but may also be medically unnecessary in many situations.
Daviss, Betty-Anne. A Framework for Analyzing Competing Types of Knowledge about Childbirth
De Jonge A., et al. 2009. New figures from the Netherlands on the safety of home births. Bjog.org
Jazeera, Al. 2011. The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam. UNFP Aasia. Youtube.com/watch?v=1F1dmcJTd9U
Rush, Merilynne. 2012. Home Funeral Discussed. Youtube.com/watch?v=XaVJfJsfIPO
This is a woman receiving and epidural, which is an anesthetic drug, injected into a space around the spinal nerves to ease childbirth pain. This is definitely viewed as a very common practice in the United States, and in my opinion, an over used practice. This is the perfect example of birth being turned into an extremely medical process, using quite serious drugs to ease the pain of what once was viewed as a natural process. This picture does not look pleasant either, pain is a huge fear of many U.S. woman, which can make giving birth a very scary event, leading to great distress and anxiety for many expectant mothers.