Thinking about the information presented on births in the Netherlands along with the Inuit and Vietnam, it is definitely seen that the US has medicalized the birthing process. As it is seen in the first lecture entitled “Birth and Death Cross-Culturally”, in the US and Canada, births in hospitals have gone up 93%, from 5% in the 1900’s to a whopping 98% in 1980 and I can’t even imagine what the percentage is now that we are in 2018. If we compare this to say the article by de Jonge A., et al, we see that in the Netherlands, 60.7% of women are wanting to have babies in their homes while only 30.8% want to have babies in hospitals (de Jonge 2009). Even though this article was published in 2009, we see the dramatic shift medicalization has had in the US when it comes to childbirth.
After taking a little look at birthing in the US, we can move to evaluate birthing in Vietnam. Evaluating the video we watched by Nick Ahlmark and Nicole Precel, we see that about 70% of Hmong women choose to have natural births at home (Ahlmark 2011). In the Hmong culture, the norm is to have babies in one’s home, but this elicits certain risks and because of those risks, newborns who are born further away from government health centers and hospitals are more likely to die (Ahlmark 2011). Because of this, midwives are used to gaining the women’s trust and with the women’s and babies best interest at heart, are put in place to help urge the women to go to hospitals for the birthing process. If we think about this compared to the US, it is similar in that people are urged to go to the hospital for the birthing process, but it is different because midwives are not often used in the US. Women in the US go willingly to the hospital because they know they are in safer hands than if they were to give birth in their homes where anything could go wrong and they are not properly prepared. Because of the rituals performed when birthing, home births are preferred in Vietnam but it doesn’t mean its safe. Unfortunately for the Hmong, hospitals and health centers may be a distance so they are not as easily assessable should something go wrong. For women in the US, hospitals are more easily accessible so there isn’t as much need for home births.
As it is much different from the people of Vietnam, the people of the Inuit community have their own traditions as far as the birthing process. In the book written by Anne-Betty Daviss it is seen that women of the Inuit tribe would be isolated in a hut where she would give birth along (Daviss 1997). While that practice is declining, there are still many other practices that are big traditions in the Inuit community. One of these would be nurses and midwives as authority figures (Daviss 1997). Women relied and still do rely on midwives and nurses for their experience and expertise when having babies at home (Daviss 1997). Unfortunately, this is why most midwives and nurses often urge women to go elsewhere or otherwise not be alone because the burden is too much (Daviss 1997). Because of this, women are forced to go to hospitals and forgo their want for home births. Comparing the Inuit to the women in the US, the women in the US, again, volunteer to give birth at hospitals surrounded by knowledgeable doctors. Women in the Inuit are forced to go to doctors because they either give birth alone and something could happen to the baby with no one around or the fact that nurses and midwifes do not have the proper knowldge and training and hold too much responsibility than they are comfortable with.
Turning to another direction, we see Merilynne Rush talk about medicalization when it comes to death. Instead of being in a world where we take care of the sick and needy, we pawn them on other people and places such as hospitals and old people homes (Rush 2012). Even after they die, we just pawn off the body to funeral homes to take care of instead of us handling the matter personally in one’s home (Rush 2012). Because we in the US are used to pawning “it” off on others, birth and now death has been left to others to handle and figure out instead of us being there and caring for our own on our own where it’s personal and in some cases, may be ritualistic.
The image I decided to go with is a picture of the series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”. This is a show that used to be on ABC Family about a teenager who gets pregnant and high school. This series includes her getting married in high school, friends getting married and having kids in high school, having miscarriages, and her trying to go to college as a teenage mother. I chose this because I think it showcases our unique view on pregnancy. Some cultures say that teenage pregnancy is okay but in the US, it is taught to us that you do not want a baby in high school, and while this TV show showcases some of the hardships, it does a pretty good job at popularizing having children so young. We are taught to wait till we are married or are “old enough” to care for ourselves but shows like this and other shows such as “Teen Mom” make people think to get pregnant in high school as a teenager is something to want and be excited about. It shows how her job has a daycare center for her and how her parents and sister help raise her baby. It also shows her being successful in graduating high school and wanting more for herself. And while these are good things, we do not want to make teenagers think this is a reality for them if they become pregnant in high school. But unfortunately, I feel like this how did just that, for some people at least.
Ahlmark, N., Precel, N., [UNFPAsia]. (2011, April 27). The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F1dmcJTd9U
Daviss, B. A., (1997). Heeding Warnings from the Canary, the Whale, and the Inuit: A Framework for Analyzing Competing Types of Knowledge about Birth. In Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge: Cross-Cultural Perspective, edited by Robbie Davis-Floyd and Carolyn Sargent, pp. 441-473. Berkeley: University of California Press.
de Jonge, A., van der Goes, B., Ravelli, A., Amelink-Verburg, M., Mol, B., Nijhuis, J., . . . Buitendijk, S. (2009). Perinatal mortality and morbidity in a nationwide cohort of 529 688 low-risk planned home and hospital births: Perinatal mortality and morbidity in planned home and hospital births. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 116(9), 1177-1184
Lecture: 3.1. Medicalization of Life Cycle Events (15 min)
Rush, Merilynne. YouTube, YouTube, 25 Sept. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaVJfJsflP0.
Secret Life of the American Teenage Photo: https://teenpregnancyutah.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/teen-pregnancy-a-media-norm/