W4: Biomedicine’s effect on Traditional Childbirths

In all cultures and society the birth of child is a wonderful life changing event. Often there are traditions and customs associated with events such as birth, marriage, and even death. In the Hmong and Inuit populations childbirth is a social event that involves much of the community. In these communities culture and traditions are followed to celebrate the arrival of a new life. For example, the Hmong buried the placenta of their child under the house if it was a boy to signify the male as the main strength of the household. This centuries old process has now become replaced with a medicalized approach. Today placentas are generally incinerated or sent away to a lab for testing. The Inuit birthing culture is also very community centered. An example of this is when Inuit newborns are surrounded by family and friends soon after birth. This tradition has been broken with the medicalization of Inuit childbirth and the lack of midwives in the north. The biomedical approach of Canadian doctors has forced Inuit women to ditch their traditions and customs for something unfamiliar and strange. There are plenty of ramifications as a result of rapid medicalization some of them include an increase in violence, abuse, and drinking. These traditional close-knit communities are greatly affected by these seemingly small changes. Doctors need to understand that while their biomedical methods are often safer and scientifically proven, they must be adjusted in order to accommodate the traditions of the population being served. Even with the Heiltsuk Aboriginal tribe of British Columbia, birthing children surrounded by the community is immensely important. There are rituals such as a potlatch and a naming ceremony in which the whole community is involved. When babies are born elsewhere there is a disconnect with the community as it forfeited the traditions (Lana 2004). No matter the community it is shown to be important that culture is followed, here in American we make our own traditions as well. For example here in the US, physicians and biomedicine are much more favorable than midwives, and natural birth practices such as lamaze. Here we value biomedicine and put it first rather than resorting to holistic approaches. We view midwives as outdated, unsafe, and even uneducated and their methods as unreliable. As a country our doctors must really learn to incorporate the traditions and cultures of patients, with the biomedicine in order to maintain a healthy outcome in traditional communities.

Lana, D. “Lana, D. (2014). STRONG WOMEN, STRONG NATIONS: Aboriginal Maternal Health … Retrieved July 28, 2016, from Http://www.nccah-ccnsa.ca/Publications/Lists/Publications/Attachments/129/2014_07_09_FS_2421_MaternalHealth_EN_Web.pdf.” Accessed July 28, 2016.

One thought on “W4: Biomedicine’s effect on Traditional Childbirths

  1. Roopa, great post! You did a great job of tying in examples from the Hmong to use as evidence to support your blog. I do not think that there is a right way or wrong way of approaching these life events with all of the varying traditions. To me, growing up with a Western medicine background, the idea of burying my sons placenta beneath my house sounds silly. But this is because I did not grow up in a culture that valued this tradition. I think that it is wrong that medicalization of events such as childbirth has taken away these traditions from the cultures who used to value and practice them daily. I think it is horrible that the government was able to force women to evacuate their homes in order to give birth to their children. It should be up to the mother to decide what type of traditions she wants to continue when approaching the time of birth. I also agree with your statement regarding that biomedical approaches to childbirth may be beneficial in times of emergencies, yet adjustments need to be made to compromise for the women longing to fulfill their different cultural traditions. Other countries with higher midwifery rates actually have a better perinatal mortality rate. Less children are dying during birth in the countries where the mother is able to stay comfortable within her own home to give birth.

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