Blog Post 3: Medicalized Births – Natalie Greener

Part 1

My sister and I, and really most of my family were all born in the hospital. The only people that I can really say that I know of that did not give birth in a hospital were a select few who had their babies at an unexpected time and were not able to make it to a hospital in time to birth. With that said, I definitely say American culture relies a lot more hospitals, doctors, and medicine to bring lives into the world, compared to other places. I understand from the readings and video that a lot of women chose home birthing for spiritual reasons, which I can see making a lot of sense; having a child in a familiar, personal place with a select few and no medication can be a very spiritual thing. Even though there are a ton of spiritual people in our society in America, I just think that we have become quite dependent on the medical system, that it is an easier choice for many.
Of the three cultures I looked at, I would say Inuit women were the most spiritually motivated to use home birthing. In the past, it has been tradition for a pregnant woman to have her child in a personal, home setting, delivered by an older Inuit woman with experience in childbirth. The idea of birth is often linked with death in this culture; it is believed that when an elder passes, the spirit is transferred into the body of a newborn baby (Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, 2006). With this said, it is very easy to see why a home birth is so special to the Inuit woman and her family. Recently, though, many pregnant Inuit women have lost their say in what kind of birth they want to give, and have been forced to give birth in a hospital setting, which can be very upsetting for their spiritual feelings (Daviss, n.d.).
Vietnam is also very fond of using home birthing methods for religious, spiritual, and personal reasons. Of the three, Vietnam definitely has the highest mortality rates for both mother and baby. Many of the areas of Vietnam are very remote, and hospitals or medical attention are very far away, which is incredibly risky. Many areas of Vietnam can be considered under developed, so home birthing success may not always have a high success rate. With that said, it would be beneficial to be near a hospital in case of emergency, but due to the limited amount hospitals per area of land, the chance of being in a close enough range is far-fetched.
The most well developed culture/country is the Netherlands, where 60.7% of women planned on giving birth at their own home (de Jonge, van der Goes, Ravelli, Amelink-Verburg, Mol, Nijhuis, Gravenhorst, & Buitendijk, 2009). Mortality rate for these at home births was low, notably due to the well trained midwife care, accessible hospital access (if needed), transportation (again, if needed), and medical advancements. It has ultimately been concluded that there was no significant risks for mother or baby if birthing took place at home compared to the hospital. I think this gives women a great feeling of choice and freedom when it comes to how and where they want to bring a child into the world, a very liberating feeling.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. 2006. The Inuit Way: A Guide to Inuit Culture.
Daviss, Betty-Anne. No Date. Heeding Warnings from the Canary, the Whale, and the Inuit.
de Jonge, A., van der Goes, B., Ravelli, A., Amelink-Verburg, M., Mol, B., Nijhuis, J., Gravenhorst, J., & Buitendijk, S. 2009. New figures from the Netherlands on the safety of home births.
Ahlmark, N., & Precel, N. “The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam” (Movie).

Part 2

Doctor holing baby: Limits on doctors working hours 'could make giving birth more risky'

This picture reinforces the idea that the America is a dominantly medicalized society, and in relation to births, many of our mothers chose to give birth in a hospital setting. In this hospital setting, a doctor is the one delivering the child, and as a result, is technically the first person to hold the child after exiting the womb. This photo is a great representation of those first few seconds. Although you could argue this is more of a glamour shot (the baby is all cleaned up, doctor looks well put together), this is what the basic first glimpse of the birth is: a doctor delivering and observing the baby, visually making sure the baby appears to be healthy.
Image retrieved from

2 thoughts on “Blog Post 3: Medicalized Births – Natalie Greener

  1. I would agree with your point about Americans having put a lot of faith in biomedicine and therefore the question of how to go about childbirth isn’t really a question at all anymore. I had not considered the role of midwifery in childbirth until another course had enlightened me on the history of childbirth. It is more than common knowledge, in America, that a woman goes to the hospital to have her baby. People question those who chose otherwise about the safety of the chosen practice, why they would choose any practice over the hospital, where they got the idea for such a practice, etc. Except as we have learned it is not at all a new practice or a dangerous practice, with properly trained individuals just like hospitals. It is just the medicalized culture that exists in America that has absorbed childbirth as a biomedical procedure rather than a spiritual event.

  2. I can relate to your post, many of my family members, with the exception of my dad, were born in hospitals. Being born at home wasn’t really something that was practiced among the people surrounding me. I do agree that in American culture, there is a great importance put on biomedicine and it’s capabilities. I think that this is because it’s what’s thought to be the “safest” way to have a baby, many with the mindset that if something happens to the child or mother during childbirth, the doctor is right there to help with anything if there were something to go wrong. My grandmother, on the other hand, gave birth to all of her children at home, no one was born in the hospital. And when talking to her, she definitely notices the differences about childbirth among different cultures. I thought the picture that you chose was very interesting, I do agree that the American society is a highly medicalized society. Great post!

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