Difference Between Medicalization and Improvement

The birthing process has been overtaken and medicalized by the biomedical model of health in the United States. That’s not a hard thing to understand, but what is hard for many people is the loss of connection to one’s culture and family that comes with it. Taking a look at the Inuit, and how the Canadian government intervened into their birthing practices this becomes evident. Initially, the Inuit, like many cultures, have a very set ceremony surround the birth of a child, since the start of a new life is very important socially and spiritually. As I commented last week, there is a massive importance to people believing in their health care, and having their spirituality (traditions, culture, etc.) play a role in this process leads to better recovery and more successful outcomes. Birthing traditions are no different, and the Canadian government forcing the biomedical idea of birth took mothers away from their families, prior children, and removed from them their ability to have their culture take place in the birth of their children. How any of us feel about this, the fact that many of these woman were given no choice in the matter tends to strike a chord with the individual choice aspect of life that we as Americans tend to hold in high esteem. Once these traditions were reinstated, as best as they could be, to the Inuit birthing process the benefits to the social and cultural issues surrounding birth was evident, and the studies showed (Lecture 4.2) that there wasn’t a danger to returning to these ways.

Furthering this, we read previously Chapter one of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, the transfer from the traditional model of birth to the biomedical one can be an awkward experience for mothers, to say the least. While compared to some models, the American model of birth in the time described in the book might be a bit isolationist, the lack of interaction from family members wasn’t too new to Foua. What was new to her was their customs didn’t work with hers (this is ignoring the language barrier entirely, as that is something series of books can be written). While the way they are described in the book doesn’t sound as if Foua was terrible displeased with the situation, it wouldn’t be a far off wager to assume she’d been just as pleased (or more so) to give birth the way she successfully had for her 13 previous children. Alas, just because there isn’t an easy to point out bad thing with the change doesn’t mean that the change is good (or bad). The accommodation for the family to bring in the traditional post-partum meals for Foua was a boon, and likely the tone of this chapter would’ve been quite different had they denied them the opportunity to do so.

As for the over medicalization of birth, we covered briefly in a lecture about the massive increase in C-section of births in America. Looking to the news, you can see the new studies about the benefits to exposure to the vaginal flora for a newborn is coming to light, and in a few years I’m sure that will have input into this conversation. Beyond that, I’m always one to ask why C-sections are so common in America, when they aren’t in other places, and weren’t 60 years ago. While yes, medical advances are good, as C-sections and all the risks, recovery time, and costs associated with them necessary? Brenda Goodman, a Health Reporter at an Atlanta based site, looked into this while planning her journey to giving birth. She looked at things like the averages of C-Sections in different hospitals, finding them varying as much as 40% to 17% in her own area. The biggest thing shown, to me, is her reference to a study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) which showed an increased risk in maternal death, as well as severe complications for woman who had a C-section compared to those who had given birth vaginally. Whether this is due to women who are higher risk for these complications already being given C-sections to reduce this risk or if the risk is from undergoing a C-section wasn’t discussed. However it is, as someone who hopes to have children of his own in the future, and further as someone who cares about the state of our healthcare for everyone, this data is discouraging, and I hope much more is done to properly determine the effectiveness of the biomedical model of health. After all, just because its done in a hospital with the best tools does not mean its the best method.

**This is no way to say that C-sections are bad, just that they be over used. Also not meant to say giving birth outside of a hospital is more or less safe, just that it differs from successful traditional models. How, where, and under what circumstance one gives birth is a decision that should be left to the woman.**

Goodman, Brenda. “Data Shines a Light on C-sections, Maternal Mortality.” Association of Health Care Journalists. May 13, 2014. Accessed July 29, 2016. http://healthjournalism.org/blog/2014/05/data-shines-a-light-on-c-sections-maternal-mortality/.

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