As we all know, birth is something every human experiences. It is in fact, the act that brings a living being into the environment that is outside their mother’s womb. Birth is obviously an extremely important process that we all share, but as all cultures differ so vastly across the world, the way we approach, think about, and conduct birthing practices vary just as much.
In America, birth is viewed as a medical event. Essentially, the opposite of death, a doctor receives a baby from a mother, and pending it’s vital signs, gives it a time of birth. Similarly in death, a doctor checks for the lack of vital signs, and pronounces a death with a given time. The reason birth is so medicalized in the United States (more so than many other countries) is because biomedicine became so dominant in America, making alternative medicine practices unpopular (Gabriel, 2016). In America if someone gives birth outside of the hospital it is no secret that most people would think that is odd or at least not the norm. A English woman wrote an article about her experience of giving birth in America saying, “I was merely agitated when the hospital administrator stuck her head round the door and asked me to sign some forms. Were these disclaimers? More insurance stuff? Adoption papers? Who knows? I wanted this person gone so scratched a squiggly line on at least half a dozen official looking documents and bid her good day” (Margolis, 2013). This is an act I am sure many women have experienced while giving birth is the United States, as extensive paperwork is always required when a baby is born. Contrary to American customs, the Hmong and Inuit cultures we have learned about look at birth quite differently. There would not be a nurse bursting into a Hmong hut, or an Inuit igloo, asking for papers to be filled out or insurance forms to be signed. These cultures look at birth as more regular part of life. The Inuits strongly believe that birth needs to occur in the family, and that when a woman is taken from her family and put in a hospital there is a significant loss of spirituality (Gabriel, 2016). The Hmong culture is extremely unique and would probably be looked at by many American’s as even odd. A Hmong mother may deliver her own baby in fact, and after the birth, it is ritual to bury the placenta. Not doing so can cause bad situations to unfold for the child later in life (Fadiman, 2012). Who has the right to tell someone that the way their culture views and conducts birth is incorrect? In reality, I believe that people who try to medicalize birth from cultures like the Hmong and Inuit, are only attempting to do so to improve the chances of a successful delivery and a healthy mother/baby duo. If different cultures prove that their way of giving birth is safe and effective, there is no need for biomedicine advocates to force their ways upon them. Instead, accepting a cultures differences from yours, admiring and learning more about why or what they do seems more appropriate.
Margolis, Ruth. “Giving Birth in the US: A New British Mum Tells All” 2013. BBC America. http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/07/giving-birth-in-the-us-a-new-british-mum-tells-all