Child Birth Across Cultures

Birthing practices can be different across cultures and societies. We here in America are very medicalized in the sense that we believe in doctors, hospitals, medicine, and other scientific approaches to child birth and life in general. I believe that there is no right or wrong way to have a baby. Different cultures have a variety of different practices and traditions when it comes to giving birth. Many people agree with the aspect of medicine and how beneficial it is in almost all circumstances but there are many cultures around the world who have traditions and practices that they have upheld over many generations that don’t include hospitals and medicine. The Inuit people of Canada believe in having their children near their homes in a hut. According to this weeks lecture video “Inuit Birth”, Some of the rituals of childbirth in their culture include the mother being isolated for a certain period of time according to the sex of the child, then shortly after that the new baby receives a baptism by the shaman.  The Hmong people according to the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” did like to give birth in their homes. While the Inuit wanted to give birth near their home they did not believe in giving birth in their actual living space otherwise they felt the hut must be abandoned if birth was given there.

The Inuit women were often forced to leave the north and go to the south to give birth in hospitals, and even though it wasn’t stated that there were major complications in doing so, I’m sure it put a lot of stress on the birthing mother. By being forced to go to a hospital, which I’m sure they were very unfamiliar with, they had to be away from their families and any other children they may have had as well as not being able to practice many of their cultures post birth rituals. The ultimate ramification in my opinion of changing these women’s birthing traditions would be that it can put stress on the mother. Americans more typically prefer to have their babies in a hospital or medical setting. In America over the years many women have been considering more often a home birth thinking its safer to have their births “less medicalized” but according to an article in the New York Times, “when women had planned out-of-hospital deliveries, the probability of the baby dying during the birth process or in the first month after — though slight — was 2.4 times as likely as women who had planned hospital deliveries (Belluck). I think it is good to have access to doctors and medicine if need be but the article also stated that in home deliveries had less chance of C-sections and mothers had fewer lacerations.

Belluck, Pam. “As Home Births Grow in U.S., a New Study Examines the Risks.” The New York Times. December 30, 2015. Accessed July 28, 2016.

2 thoughts on “Child Birth Across Cultures

  1. Hello!

    I liked what you said in your opening paragraph, that “there is no right or wrong way to have a baby”, I totally agree. Something else I believe is that no one should put added stress on a pregnant women, no matter what culture. If they’re carrying around a baby for nine months, they get to decide where and how they want to have it. Of course, now days with everything that’s offered to us, I would imagine that it would be hard to turn down an easier deliver for your values and traditions. That’s why when you mentioned the Inuit women were forces to go south for hospitals in their pregnancies, I can imagine the weight of stress they felt on their shoulders. When there is stress on the mother, there is stress on the baby and really that’s all I think it should take to let the mother make the decision. However, I agree with your New York Times article about mothers now having children at home, you included in your post. I would also rather have peace of mind, knowing that if anything went wrong, a doctor would be there immediately to assess the situation and solve it as soon as possible.

  2. Hey Kendra!

    I totally agree with you! There really isn’t a right or wrong way to give birth. The main reason why we find anomalies in other culture’s practices is because we look at their traditions from our own cultural glasses. We rarely ever change the frames! Lots of times we have a bad habit of comparing and contrasting our culture with other culture. Most of the time, especially the media… often shine the spotlight on things that are particularly the opposite of what we consider morals and values. For an example: in some nations, its okay for children to marry at a young age. In the United States, it’s illegal. Of course I believe it’s inappropriate because my “culture” taught me that it should be looked down upon. Who would guess that something as universal as “birth” is very different in a variety of ways. As stated before, the way birth is handled and interpreted ultimately depends on culture. I can’t even fathom the amount hurt and dishonor that Lia’s mother felt when she was at the hospital. Due to a range of factors such as confusion, language barriers and financial issues… the birth of her 14th child was not carried out how she pleased. Sadly, this is due to cultural insensitivity!

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