W4: Childbirth Differences in Different Cultures

After examining the American, Hmong, and Inuit cultures, It is clear that birth is not the same everywhere. Although many people view birth as simply delivering a baby, there is much more to it, especially when it comes to culture.

American culture has really turned the life event of birth into something very medicalized (lecture 3.1). Women begin seeing doctors 9 months in advance to delivering. They are thoroughly examined by not only the medical doctors, but with technology as well. When it comes time to deliver, the mother is given pain medication and may possibly be cut open instead of delivering vaginally. Many women are actually delivering via cesarean in the United States. It is common to believe that it is unsafe to deliver a baby at home in the United States contrary to many other countries in which  moms are attended to by midwives and home birth is a normal option.

In the Film “The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam” It really put in perspective how lucky women in developed countries are when expecting a baby. The maternal mortality rate in Vietnam is 10 times higher than the national average (Ahlmark). It is actually very rare for Hmong women to deliver in a hospital. The Hmong have a very strong culture in which their customs are very important. These customs, such as burying the placenta under bed at home for good luck, make it difficult to give birth at a health centre (Fadiman, 1997: 14). Midwives in Vietnam are doing their best to spread the word about medicalized birth and are trying to push more women in Vietnam to deliver in a hospital setting. This is a hard challenge for the midwives in Vietnam because the mother who is delivering will have to get permission from the men in her family.

Many Inuit mothers deliver their babies in hospitals but there is a push for more traditional midwifery practices to assist in birthing (PDF 4.2). In traditional midwifery practices the midwife, whom does not have to be a medical professional, will help the family to delivery the baby at home. From the day a baby is delivered the baby is in constant contact with the mother. The mother breastfeeds her baby until the baby is 3-5 years of age or until the mother has another child. To have babies as an Inuit means that you are a warm, good hearted family.

Overall Childbirth is thought of differently by each culture. In the United States childbirth is very medicalized and we want to keep women as safe as possible during birth, which for us is in the hospital. The Hmong are very focused on their customs and what is spiritually good for the women and the child, although there is a push for a medical change. Lastly, the Inuits view childbirth as something that should be shared with the family and done at home.

The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam. Directed by Nick Ahlmark. The Mountain Midwives of Vietnam. 2011. Accessed July 29, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1F1dmcJTd9U.

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