Week 3 Blog Post

Part I: Birth in every country is slightly if not radically different. In most countries, birth has been medicalized in order to make mortality for both the mother and baby less likely. However, the ways in which it has been medicalized and how rituals and other cultural aspects have been incorporated is vastly different in many nations; including nations that are very similar.

In the Netherlands, over 60% of women planned to give birth at home. Midwives were trained to deal with in home births and to know when transport to a hospital was necessary. Infrastructure and transport allowed for mothers to be moved to hospitals if need be (Jonge, et. al., 2006). Women have a choice and voice in where they give birth and under what circumstances. In comparison, Inuits in most communities are forced to ‘evacuate’ to hospitals in the south since the nurses at nursing stations in the north do not feel comfortable assisting women in birth. This is taxing on the women because their culture is very much centered around their children and many mothers have to leave young children for weeks at a time to fly south and give birth. This takes an emotional toll because the women do not have the option to give birth in their homes. Furthermore, they may not speak the language of the doctors and it is difficult to get together money to fly a relative south with them- many mothers go through this relatively alone (Inuit, 2006). Lastly, Vietnamese women usually give birth in their homes, certain rituals and customs of birth can only be preformed in the birthing mother’s homes so they are opposed to traveling to a hospital to give birth. There is midwives and doctors that can care for women giving birth but the hospitals are few and far between. Many rural Vietnamese women do not trust the doctors, stating they will throw away the placenta, which is traditionally buried underneath the mother’s bed to ensure health for the infant (Ahlmark, 2011).

These differences reflect the different ideas each culture has about women and their place in society. It is not necessarily correct to say the Netherlands has more respect for its women because of their ability to choose where to give birth but it is true that this reflects a modern society that takes into account not only the rituals and traditions of its people but the feelings and well-being of modern individuals. In the case of the Inuit’s, their desires and needs were surpassed by the Canadian government for safety aspects, thus taking their voice out of what happens to them.

Countries such as Vietnam and the Inuit people that keep rituals and traditions shows that the mothers and children and as an extension the family unit is sacred and is to be kept as such. Countries that medicalize birth in order to reduce risk of complications can still incorporate aspects of traditional rituals that are important to individuals. The best set-up in my opinion would be one where rituals/traditions are respected and kept but medical technology and advances that made it safer would be readily available and mothers would be encouraged to incorporate them in the birth process.

Theoretical perspectives are assumptions that lead us to a certain answer or frame the question in a way the author or researcher wants. In the film the “Mountain Midwives of Vietnam” by Nick Ahlmark and Nicole Percel, some of these include showing the poverty some women live in, showing the long trek to the hospital, and conducting interviews with local pregnant women. Furthermore, by showing a father burying the placenta of his wife, this shows how strong tradition and rituals are. In the article “New figures from the Netherlands on the safety of home births” Jonge, et. all talked about the amount of women opting for a home birth and the percentage of which was safe. Additionally, they talked about how midwives would suggest hospital births to high risk mothers to lead us to believe that they are looking out for the mother and not just trying to get home births. In the YouTube video “Home Funeral Discussed” Merilynne Rush used interviews with ordinary people who have experienced a home funeral as well as a funeral director to provide a perspective from people who have gone through the process and have knowledge of it. This is more convincing than someone who thinks it may be a good idea trying to convince you. Lastly, in the article “Heeding Warnings from the Canary, the Whale, and the Inuit” Betty-Anne Daviss tells as story as a theoretical perspective. This makes the argument more ‘human’ and relatable. Strictly using statistics is not as compelling as using a story as well, most people like to be told stories about the statistics rather than just hearing them. Therefore, this leads the reader to believe a certain way based on how she told the story (similar to the two sides of every argument, one side will always leave out details that may help the other side to make their case more convincing).

Part II: In this image, a woman is giving birth surrounded by eight onlookers (presumably doctors, nurses, and family) all clad in blue scrubs with hair pieces and face masks. It is a very sterilized setting that demonstrates how medicalized our births in America are. Dominant ideas of birth in America are that it is a medical procedure and not a transition or ritual as other cultures may view births. This image reinforces this idea because it does not show any family members holding the mother’s hand or doing any ritualistic process. Most people in the room are simply observing and standing back and everyone is in sterilized medical gear. This image conveys to women that birth is a medical event and could be scary to some women who are afraid of medical procedures.

Figure one: Birth in America. (http://sacredmaternity.com/what-happened-to-birth/)

 

Sources:

Ahlmark, Nick and Nicole Precel, directors. The Mountain Midwives of VietnamYouTube, UNFPAasia, 27 Apr. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F1dmcJTd9U.

Jonge, A, et al. “New Figures from the Netherlands on the Safety of Home Births.” An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology , An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology , 31 Dec. 2006.

The Inuit Way: A Guide to Inuit Culture. Inuit Women of Canada, 2006, anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2016/06/3.1-inuit-way.pdf.

 

One thought on “Week 3 Blog Post

  1. Hello Jessica, similar to what you wrote about, while reading about the Netherlands, I was intrigued by what made women there so comfortable in having home births even though advanced medical technology is so readily available. It seems like the United States could do the same thing I just wonder what the differing factor is. Out of all of the cultures and birthing practices we studied, would you say that the Netherlands have the best combination of respecting personal/cultural beliefs and having medical help available? On a separate note, in regards to your picture, it is so baffling to me how different birthing is in the United States compared to in Inuit culture. As The Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada mentioned in their article, the only people present at births is local women who have experienced childbirth and their family. It is a very intimate setting and I wish it was more like this in America where someone could at least hold your hand.

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