W4: Births Through the Cultures

This week we were able to take a look at three main points: the Intuit, the Hmong (past couple weeks as well), and Americans. Birth is something that is sacred to life itself, but has very different contextual meaning in varying cultures. In America, birth has become increasingly more medicalized since the Flexner Report separated medicine into a strictly Biochemical field. In the Intuit, it is a more natural and regular practice. It had been taken away from them for a short while, but the Intuit have since taken it back completely and gone back to their own ways. For the Hmong, it has been a long tradition. Women have tried going to hospitals, but it disrupts their way of life. Birth is a common thing for everyone, but when it is interpreted and practiced, it can be a different concept for all.

As I mentioned before America’s birthing practices have become increasingly more medicalized throughout the years. When it comes to birth, vaginal birth without medicine for pain and outside of a hospital is considered natural or “regular birth”. As of 2013, America was the 6th leader in most Caesarean section births. That seems crazy! If there were 100 people here, 33 of them would be having a c-section to have their baby (McCarthy, 2016). This is very high compared to most of the countries of the world. Many cultures will frown upon this. I personally think that I will only have a Caesarean if it is the only option to save my life and my babies. I would never just opt for that. It has been found that if a baby is born through Caesarean, it causes more health problems because it misses out on the bacterial microbes that it would normally come in contact with coming out of the mothers vagina (Ross, 2015).

The Intuit are very family and community oriented, at least that is the way I view it. They perform “regular”  births. The never perform them in their home, though, they will perform it within their village. If a birth happens at home, they have to find a new hut. Anyways, after the baby is born it is very important that the baby is always in contact with a family member or member of the community. The child is never left alone. Also, Inuit mothers are very close with their children. It is even sometimes seen that the mother will breastfeed for up to 3 years of the child’s life. As I stated earlier, the Inuit had laws that made the women go to a hospital in Southern Canada. When they had to do so they faced many challenges. There were language barriers, they could not carry out their naming rituals, they were not allowed to have constant access to their baby right from birth. Also, they were not allowed to complete all of the normal traditions that were sacred to them. Because of this and the rising costs of the plane tickets and doctors fees, the Inuit decided to keep having births in their own village. Having the birth where they want it and the way they want it allows them to fulfill all of their traditions as well as keep it the way they are used to.

The Hmong are very individualistic when it comes to birth. They also have a “regular” birth; however, the only people present during a birth of a newborn Hmong child are the mother and the child. The mother will give birth to the child on her own. The father of the child is allowed to come into the room to give water or other minor tasks; however, he may not look at the mother of the child as she is giving birth. I personally think they use this to strengthen the bond between mother and child. Also, they have had women try to use medicalized systems. When they have done so, they have had bad outcomes. They have beliefs that the placenta should be buried in a certain place in their house. Because of this they have tried to ask for the placenta from the doctors, but the doctors think it is unsanitary and otherwise.

The three different types of births are very different in each their own way, but I think that each have their own advantages and disadvantages. I personally think that I would use a mix of the natural birth and medicalized as needed. I think that the term”regular” birth is misleading. To each culture, regular is just what they use day in and day out. I think that for American’s our regular birth is medicalized birth. All in all, the three different births are fine, but they have to realize their risks. The risk of the natural birth at home or with a midwife is that their is the chance of medical emergency that is irreparable.



Gabriel, Cynthia. “ANP 370: Culture, Health, and Illness.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. 2015. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/medicalization-of-everyday-life/.

Gabriel, Cynthia. “Inuit Birth.” ANP 370 Culture Health and Illness. 2015. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp370-us16/lecture-videos/inuit-birth/

McCarthy, Niall. “Which Countries Have the Highest Caesarean Section Rates?” Forbes. January 12, 2016. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/01/12/which-countries-have-the-highest-caesarean-section-rates-infographic/#4604c3ea44ff.

Ross, Heather Kathryn. “The Truth About C-Sections, Probiotics, and the Bacteria in Your Gut.” Healthlines RSS News. April 24, 2015. Accessed July 28, 2016. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/the-truth-about-c-sections-probiotics-and-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-042415#1

One thought on “W4: Births Through the Cultures

  1. Hi Maria,

    Excellent post. I’m glad you decided to include statistics about C sections in our country because it is very eye opening. I wonder why these rates are so high. Perhaps they are high because doctors or hospitals are trying to rush women through the system, in order to maximize outputs (number of babies delivered) rather than socially and emotionally support the women giving birth. As I mentioned in my blog post for this week, and also mentioned elsewhere in our course materials, Western medicine is a biomechanical model because it tends to focus solely on the physical. Other cultures, such as the Hmong and Inuit, believe that birth is very social and important to community growth and strength. Their birthing practices focus on the emotional and social aspects of the women, rather than detract from it. As you mentioned, many of these women who do have complications or are forced to use Western medicine often times have negative outcomes. My personal opinion on the matter is very similar to your own. Women should be able to pick and choose what kind of childbirth process they want to use and still have access to medical intervention if complications occur, however, a woman with high risks of complications should have hospital births because at the end of the day, it isn’t just about her choice but the safety of the her life and the baby’s.


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