W4: This Crazy Thing Called Childbirth

These lectures this week have really opened my eyes to my general impression of a natural childbirth. I have always thought that those people were crazy who wanted no drugs and wanted to stay home for the birth. I even was skeptical of those who preferred a midwife to a doctor. What I did not know is the history of childbirths and how it was like that for so long before medicalization.


For the Inuit people, their culture relied on midwives or older woman to assist with the birth. They stayed in their villages and had acquired certain customs for the birth experience such as not giving birth in your own family hut, and the children being named after recently deceased people (Gabriel 4.2). This makes sense to me that they formed this ritual of how to give birth. They are very tied to their culture and are usually only surrounded by their own. Then the Canadian government decided that Inuit mothers had to be evacuated to the South to give birth in a more medical manner. The Canadians thought they were doing what was right, but that’s because they had beliefs in the biomedicine system. I initially thought this was a great thing, as I could not imagine the safety of childbirth in the North. The lecture brought up very good points such as what if the mother has children she is leaving behind when she is evacuated? Or what if there is a language barrier? (Gabriel, 4.2). I was surprised and happy to find out that after some Inuit’s reclaimed their birthing style that it was proved just as safe as those women who are evacuated (Gabriel 4.2).


The Hmong people have even more different birthing rituals than compared to Americans. I was shocked to find out that the birthing process occurs with no help from others. Growing up the way I did, I could never imagine anyone choosing to be alone while giving birth. Americans rely on usually an entire hospital along with their family to get through childbirth, while the Hmong women are alone. Also, the Hmong believe in a very sacred ritual of burying the placenta after childbirth, while in America the placenta is usually discarded. When some Hmong women have a medicalized birth, they loose this ritual unless they ask to keep the placenta. Doctors usually do not respond well to this, as it is something very unheard of in our culture.


I used to believe that the highly medicalized American birth was completely normal. I now know that this is not what it has always been like. Women in America used to give birth at home without doctors. Midwives were highly respected. Now America’s cesarean birth rate is at an all time high. The World Health Organization states, “While the optimal C-section rate recommended by the World Health Organization is between 5 and 10 percent, we are delivering 1 out of every 3 babies by Cesarean” (Torre). I believe it is the woman’s choice on all the factors pertaining to how she will give childbirth. I never realized there were so many differences between cultures regarding childbirth. I also did not realize that a lot of them are very safe.


Torre, Naomi. “Risks of High- Tech Birth.” SheKnows. May 27, 2012. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/952881/dangerous-birth-is-childbirth-becoming-over-medicalized.

3 thoughts on “W4: This Crazy Thing Called Childbirth

  1. Hi Emma, I enjoyed reading your post! I was also really shocked to learn that the traditional Hmong births are done alone without any assistance. Here in the US women definitely have the help of doctors, nurses, and even loved ones in the room as they give birth. In American culture the idea of giving birth alone is pretty much unheard of. There’s also the Hmong tradition of burying the placenta. Here in the US the placenta is just disposed of without a second thought. If a patient were to ask to keep the placenta doctors and other medical staff would view that as “gross and unhygienic.” In the Inuit culture definitely the amount of stress put on the expecting mothers was just too much. They were expected to travel far away, alone, away from their community, and even sometimes without knowing the language. That can be a serious ramification as stress can lead to premature births. The Inuit and Hmong have very traditional ways of birth and rituals associated with these type of life events. It is unfortunate that in an effort to help the Inuit, the Canadian biomedicine caused a loss of tradition that was valued. I agree, its really great that the Inuit were able to finally get midwives in the north to assist with birthing.

  2. I really enjoyed your approach this weeks lecture material. I, myself always thought people were crazy to not want an epidural or any type of medicine to ease the pain, which I heard is a pain like no other. After hearing stories and reading about this weeks material, it has become more clear to me about why people may not want assistance with drugs or hospital births. I think hospitals make the experience less memorable and less intimate. Even though I will be having all my child births in a hospital because I would feel more safe, I can now see why people may object to that decision. Traditions and natural life births seem way more meaningful and significant for such an amazing event of a new life. I agree with you about the loss of tradition with biomedicine, but I also think it is an amazing thing to have the technology and plethora of doctors for safe birthing. Traditional rituals are extremely important to keep cultures and spirits alive, but also low mortality rates have a huge factor in keeping cultures going, which comes with successful births and biomedicine. Great post!

  3. Hello!

    I liked your title; it drew me into your post! I think I’m really similar to you in your views to all the topics this week. I definitely was also kind of intrigued by women that choose to have children at home, instead of a hospital. With all that we have available to us, I just think regularly seeing a doctor, and delivering in a hospital is the safest bet. My mom had my sisters and me at a hospital, and my older sister needed a C-section, and you mentioned an article, included in your post, that C-section recommendations from doctors at an all time high, so I can’t imagine what my mom would’ve done without medical assistance there to tell her that. Or if there was a breeched baby, it’s extremely dangerous to continue to deliver naturally, so I’m not quite sure how the Hmong and Inuit’s do it. However, after seeing these cultures, I realized that every women is doing what they thing is best for their child and them, and if the child is safe then that’s all that matters, After learning from these cultures this week, I understand why they do it, however I still never would.

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