Blog Post 3: Medical Interception – Stephanie Burnham

Part 1

The documentary regarding birth in Hmong culture appears to implement the Critical Medical theoretical perspective. This can be seen in the topic of the film which investigates the tensions between traditional Hmong belief and the seemingly safer health clinics available. Traditionally, a birth in the Hmong culture is within the home with the assistance of a midwife, and as was mentioned in the film, the placenta is often buried to ensure good health for mother and child. These traditions are intercepted by the health clinic – run by personnel of a foreign culture and who speak a different language. In the film the mother mentions that she will cut the umbilical cord with her own scissors, showing the pride and achievement of the woman to have birthed the child and also the unity created  among the family and community through this birth.

The Inuit also have difficulties navigating the place and process of birth as they themselves have various traditions and particularities regarding the act that do not jive with the medicalization pushed upon them. Inuit birth has been medicalized through a complicated game of politics, namely their resettlement. By forcing the Inuit to move into designated areas occupied by facilities and people of a different culture and language, the Inuit was unable to hold onto the traditional practices of allowing the woman to be in control and charge of her own birth. In forcing the Inuit to fly to the South and give birth in a hospital, women lose the power that surrounds a traditional Inuit birth – instead the midwife is given the authority. Daviss  gives us a powerful the case study regarding Elisapee and her experience of being flown back and forth by herself in order to give birth to a child in a hospital that she would rather have birthed at home. In this article, Daviss also takes a Critical Medical Theoretical perspective as she explains the dissonance of knowledge into eight separate logics.

The medicalization of birth in the Netherlands differs from the Inuit and Hmong in that home birth and hospital birth are able to coexist more comfortably, perhaps due in part to the blend of “old” medicine of homeopathy, for example, and “new” medicine of technology. This blend comes to characterize the medicalization of birth in the Netherlands. Most interesting, in the article New Figures from the Netherlands on the Safety of Home Births, the professionals that were interviewed appeared to remain morally skeptical of home birth, though the facts themselves show that both at home birth and in hospital birth are equally safe (de Jonge A 2009). The fact that at home births are increasingly prevalent shows that within the Netherlands woman are in control of the birthing process. However, hearing from the medical professionals in the article, there still appears to be a push to medicalize birth farther.

In the United States, birth has been increasingly medicalized since the early 1900’s. Birth in the United States often takes place in a hospital with medical professionals and trained nurses controlling the situation, speeding or slowing the process as they see fit. In this way, birth in the United States views the woman giving birth as a subject, an object, rather than an active expert in the process.

As the world and society become increasingly globalized, the legitimacy of biomedicine is spread as a “normal” fact among cultures that have operated without or in contrary to this medical knowledge for hundreds or thousands of years. After reading the material, it seems that even though these articles look to preserve and understand the culture at hand, there is an increasing push to get women into a hospital so that she may be safe. This become increasingly complicated when women from within the community speak out and advocate change. This week I found it difficult to navigate who was in the right and who was in the wrong or if it wasn’t any of that. Most intentions seemed to be in good spirit, but nonetheless challenge different ways of being.

Part 2

Home births: No drugs, no doctors, lots of controversy, CNN

The above article from CNN discusses the controversy surrounding in-home births in the United States. One quote mentioned in this article, taken from The Lancet, reads, “Women have the right to choose how and where to give birth, but they do not have the right to put their baby at risk.” From this statement we see that women are portrayed as though they are not keeping their child mind when making a decision regarding a birth at home. In this way, a birth at home is devalued, or seen as not the best option for the child. This expresses on a greater scale the belief that in the United States women remain subjects of medicalized birthing process that devalues their personal intuition in the time of child birth (and perhaps at other times as well).

In this article we also get the perspectives of women who chose to have a birth at home. These woman note that they chose to have their child at home with a midwife because it was more natural, personal and intimate. This supports the idea that American biomedicine is impersonal and focused on getting people in and out rather than understanding health as a personal, nuanced idea and experience.

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