Upon looking among the cultures practiced in the Netherlands, Vietnam, the Inuit, and across the United States in terms of medicalized births, various differences and comparisons can be observed between at home births and hospital births. Technology and the vast array of sciences in today’s modern world has begun to force this new way of life onto many cultures. This change to a naturally occurring thing for women, has been the reason for numerous implications, and depending on the perspective and place, could be either positive or negative.
Rather than beginning with the cultural practices of birth that I am most familiar with here in America, I decided to assess the medicalization of birth in the other areas of the world first. In the Netherlands, in the past 20 years, since about 1993, pregnant mothers are often coaxed and encouraged into having their baby at home with a midwife. Behind this decision is also one that allows the mother to have more say-so in how and where she would like to give birth to her newborn. This support causes more women in the Netherlands (just over a quarter) to have their baby in the comforts of the home. While 30% may seem like a low number, it is still drastically higher than that of the U.S as I will get to shortly. In order to pull off a successful delivery, the health system takes into account both the mother and baby, as well as the midwife, and ensures the home is properly equipped with materials, given the mother is of low risk in the hopes that no complications come about along the way (de Jonge, A., 2009).
In Vietnam, home births are seen as the preferred option despite new improvements to the birthing technique and how it has been modernized and recommended to the people, especially for the women in Hmong. For the Hmong women, it is entirely their choice and decision whether or not the birth will take place within a health care facility or within their own home. Unfortunately, mortality rate is high among women and babies due to the preferred practice of delivery in the home despite any complications during pregnancy or the birth. Many of them resist and avoid giving birth any place besides the home for various reasons. Often times at a health care center, sacred traditions and cultural practices cannot be completed such as burial of the placenta after birth. Furthermore, the trip to the health care center itself is often a dangerous one, and leaves women worried and scared to make the trek (Precel, 2011).
Among the Inuit, the medicalization of birth has led to an extreme change than their traditional cultural practice of birthing in their home. Expectant mothers have recently been forced to move to hospitals outside of their own close-knit community to stay in isolation, with families they are unfamiliar with, or with physicians they cannot effectively communicate with during such a crucial time. Unable to have the needed support from their own mothers and sisters during the process, women try to hide their pregnancy, with the hopes of having their baby born in the traditional setting, a situation that can be very dangerous to both mother and baby. Culturally and spiritually it takes a toll on the women, and recently cause for reasoning has surfaced that evacuation of mothers and their soon to be born infants is actually potentially more harmful, rather than simply having the baby in their home as they wish. Rather than ensuring good health for both mom and baby, it has taken away a sense of community and bond between expectant mothers and her support system that the Inuit so closely rely on (Daviss).
Here in America, the “norm” nowadays is to give birth in a hospital setting, much unlike the other countries talked about. Recently, since hospitals and health care facilities have become more equipped with the materials and technology needed to deliver a baby and in case any precautions should arise, at home births have been frowned upon, due to the mindset that it’s too “old school” and fails to take advantage of the resources us as Americans receive. Compared to the other countries which often cringe at the idea of giving birth in a hospital, people in the U.S traditionally welcome the process and often don’t think much about home birth as an option. Physicians often look down upon midwives and lack respect, resulting in poor communication during a delivery if the case may arise. Regardless of the practice, different kinds of birthing techniques reflects different cultural traditions and shows us the different ideas shared about women and mothers in each country. Some give women the choice, others are forced, and often times one way is seen as the only option based on society’s opinion or cultural practices.
de Jonge A, van der Goes B, Ravelli A, Amelink-Verburg M, Mol B, Nijhuis J, Gravenhorst J, Buitendijk S.: “New figures from the Netherlands on the safety of home births” (Link 3.3)
Ahlmark, Nick and Nicole Precel: “The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam” (Film 3.1)
Daviss, Betty-Anne: “Heeding Warnings from the Canary, the Whale, and the Inuit” (Link 3.1)
I decided to focus on celebrity culture in America that deals with pregnancy, birth, body image, and how the rest of our society puts so much pressure on women needing to get back to their original body as quickly after birth as possible. The idea of trying to “fix” a woman’s body and kick start an insane plan to drop the pounds immediately is simply an unrealistic expectation that is common after this natural 9 month process, especially in the world of celebrities that are cast out into the spotlight for the world to see and judge. The image of Carrie Underwood before and after giving birth only reinforces the dominant ideas on how women should act post giving birth. She managed to drop all the weight and get back to a slim shape with just over 3 months time. While many in society idealize her and celebs like her, they fail to realize the insane schedule, time, and diet they receive from famous trainers – an advantage many of us cannot afford ourselves. The idea that women need to look perfect and effortless before, during and after birth (as her images seem to interpret) is simply not okay, and is often something the media in America portrays through the celebrities. While getting back to a healthy weight after pregnancy and having a child is a good habit and is important for good health, it is just as important to do so in a realistic and manageable timeframe. Just because society’s dominant idea on women’s body image after birth is one way, doesn’t mean you can’t find another way that works and gets you to the “ideal you”, regardless of what society sees and thinks.
Carrie Underwood photo before baby:
Carrie Underwood photo after baby: