This week we focused on particularly childbirth as both a cultural and medical practice. It goes hand in hand with the approach we’ve taken to the class, which includes us looking at how different cultures view medicine. Clearly, childbirth isn’t something that is considered a medical procedure cross-culturally, so it’s interesting when bringing up the topic academically because there’s a huge array of complications particularly when western medicine tries to impose its will on smaller cultures, such as the Inuit and Hmong. To them childbirth is a part of normal life, and this stems from their outlook on the practice.
In order to understand certain consequences of cultural imposition, one must understand the culture’s practice of childbirth in this case. The Inuit believe that each newborn child is a product of reincarnation and is named after the deceased relative to which they are believed to be the reincarnation of. It is believed that the soul is passed down to the child. These people are located in the northern Canadian region, so Canada is the big imposer in this situation. As a result of this view, children are given much more freedom in the Inuit culture than that of non-Inuits. One may say that they are over-permissive, but discipline is used throughout the community. Even when the Inuits switched primarily to western medicine they don’t change much about their way of life, particularly in breastfeeding. The mother will breastfeed until the child is about 3 years old. After bio medicine is implemented, this doesn’t really change much. However, bottle feeding does begin to rise in popularity.
Traditional Hmong will simply give birth in homes, without the help of bio medicine. A consequence of this would be that the mortality rate of infants was relatively high, and it was, at about 50%. In order to combat this, their belief is that the infant has 3 days to make it to their initiation ceremony into the human race. Until then, they are not considered human beings so to help console the mother should the baby die. Bio medicine changes that. The mortality rates of everyone begins to go down as we see the Hmong using more and more western medicine.
Being apart of the western medical system, it’s easy to say ours is the best. Our society is pretty secular right now, and that just isn’t the case of these other tribes who follow more traditional values. When we begin to medicalize childbirth we do get a healthier mortality rate and healthier babies (I think) but we do over time lose that cultural significance behind childbirth.
Along with that, medicalizing childbirth can also have bad effects. One of these effects is quite simple: you’re putting the decision for your baby in the hands of a doctor. According to my outside article, (which appears to be very against medicalizing childbirth) goes on to say that in the delivery room once the baby is delivered, they will administer many drugs without the mother’s permission (The Medicalization of Childbirth, 2012). Granted, a birth plan can very easily alter this, one thing does stick out and it is who is calling the shots? In childbirth, that’s the question isn’t it? In bio medicine the doctor calls the shots (unless you supersize your right to) in most cases and in traditional childbirth the mother will call the shots. Which one is better? Well, like every other answer that I’ll give for this course, it depends.