Every culture practices a different way of life. Around the world people have different values, goals, and dreams. This affects the way each society develops and the direction in which they advance. The history of culture explains why significant life events such as birth are seen and treated differently. This week we looked at a myriad of material that showed the diversity in birth culture and how it has been medicalized. In America, there is a strong culture of authoritative knowledge in the medical system. Shaped by the Flexner Report of 1910, where Abraham Flexner went around the country to survey the medical schools and determine which ones were up to his standard. His criteria included that all medicine must be based on science and numbers, which took away the integrity of different types of health approaches.
The culture of birth between the United States and the Netherlands has many differences. In the U.S. it is uncommon to have a birth outside of a hospital. On the other hand, in the Netherlands most women chose to have their birth at home with help from a midwife. The article by de Jonge A. et al highlights that women who choose a home birth verses a hospital have the same percent of risk, and that women can freely decide where to give birth. The difference in the culture is that in the Netherlands maternity services are well set up to meet the needs of a home birth. However, America doesn’t have a system that is open to receiving complications in home births. There is a negative view of having a home birth and women receive more information on hospitals births than any other option. This also occurs when a person passes away, most families are only given the option to use a funeral home. As Merilynne Rush explained in her film there are many options such as home funerals that may provide a more comforting option for some.
The Inuit community has a rich culture that is full of tradition and various rituals. When Europeans arrived it drastically changed the life of the Inuit, mainly due to influencing the people to stop living nomadically and implementing modern medicine. In Betty-Anne Daviss’ book, she discussed that in the North American medical system the clinical or legal risk outweighed the personal or cultural losses of a pregnant woman. If there was a slightly better chance that the baby and mother will be healthier in a hospital, then the mother will be flown down to the hospital. This event was often traumatizing to women, they were taken from their families, and the comfort of their home. Even though the Inuit community has been in control of birth throughout their history, the authoritative knowledge practiced by the settlers overtook quickly. The culture of birth in the U.S. is like the Europeans who settled, and it’s important to hear the story of the Inuit people to understand that every culture should be shown respect. Yes, help and advancement in society is appreciated but it must work alongside the native people.
A final comparison will be made between the Hmong people in Vietnam and America. The film by Nick Ahlmark and Nicole Precel told the story of a midwife who tries to convince pregnant women to give birth at the medical center. This was to combat infant and maternal mortality during birth, as well as to provide sanitary care so that the baby and mother will be healthy. Normally, the women give birth at home with a relative to help. A key reason why this was preferred was because an important ritual was done with the placenta, which is often inaccessible in a hospital. In the film, a compromise was made, and the family could receive the placenta. However, if this occurred in America many would frown upon it and deny the family. The medical system in America has a tight structure that doesn’t allow for a patient’s culture to personalize their care, and this has a negative impact on the people. We must realize the culture of authoritative knowledge that is present and do our best to fight against it for the sake of others.
Oi, M. (2015, February 13). How much do women around the world pay to give birth? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/business-31052665
This article was by a mother who compared the hospital bills of different countries when a woman gives birth. The images she shared were with her newborn in a hospital bed and an ultrasound. These related to the dominant ideas about birth in America because people picture white sheets and pillows and hear the word “epidural” when hearing the story of a birth. The hospital represents a place of safety, where skilled professionals will tend to any problem that may arise. In the family photo the father, mother, and baby are all cuddled together, however, the reality was that moment might have been the first they could have that type of connection. The ultrasound photo represents that it is normal in American culture to have antenatal care and access all sorts of information even before the baby is born. Though this is what is expected in our culture, we must know that it is strikingly different around the world.