W4: Hospital or Home

This weeks material on childbirth was really important to me as I actually plan on becoming an OB/GYN and have spent many hours shadowing OB/GYNs because of this. Therefore I am very much aware of the westernized or medicalized version of childbirth. Which also means I am probably more biased towards this version of childbirth. However, learning about the Inuit and the Hmong is a very different perspective on childbirth and provides insight onto what I think is a more spiritual relationship with the natural process compared to how Americans/ American physicians view it.

To start I was curious about the statistics about home childbirths in America which lead me to a paper that claimed 1/300 Americans birth were a result of a planned home-birth, or inversely that over 99% of childbirths in America occur in hospitals. Which lead to the question of why? Also in the paper was a story about in a doctors office a poster hung claiming “Home delivery is for Pizza” which tells a very clear message and also insinuates the negative thoughts about home births. Which was also a brief insight into why home births are no longer common in America- Science has classified it as to put it simply”unsafe”. But after reading about the Inuits and Hmongs I began to think that there is another side that a lot of people, including myself forget. Which is that even though hospital births are dawned as “safer” , many cultures view it as less emotional, and that it may even be traumatizing.

For cultures like the Inuit and the Hmong where childbirth is something almost sacred, the medicalized childbirth is so foreign. In America after birth typically the child is taken away so the mother can get some rest. But for the Lee’s, a traditional Hmong family, the women pride themselves on giving birth in their homes and quite literally catch the baby as they come out and then remaining cradled with the baby for hours following the birth. Therefore, it is probably not a far stretch to assume that by being in a sterile environment with few family members in the room is not as special, and that taking the new baby away so the mother can get some “rest” is not what the Hmongs want. A possible bigger ramification is the handling of the placenta.  The Hmongs believe that after death one must find their “jacket” in order to carry on in the after life. So when they came to America where doctors can refuse to give the placenta back, and rather incinerate it, such events would cause great distress for the remainder of life.

Additionally for the Inuit since medical access is a literal plane ride away making them give birth under the medicalized childbirth is more than a slight inconvenience. Like the story discussed in lecture about  Elisapee who had to leave her child behind, which lead to an injury that caused her to spend all her money and go home, just to be shipped back. And there is really no choice in the matter as to where to give birth, it is no surprise that the Inuits are petitioning for reverting to their traditional methods of childbirth.

I think in general what I think is that the biggest ramification is the depletion of family and spiritual connection from giving birth in ones home away from ones beliefs. Hospitals do not have a lot of room for religion and beliefs because they are so based in science.

Joseph Wax, “Home Versys Hospital Birth – Process and Outcome” Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey 65:2 (2010): 132-140.

Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. 2006. “The Inuit Way: A Guide to Inuit Culture”

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/

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997.

5 thoughts on “W4: Hospital or Home

  1. Casandra,
    I liked your closing statement and agree that only focusing on science and not psychological or emotional needs is a horrible problem in our culture. Even if we don’t have proof of religious phenomena, it simply doesn’t matter because any doctor or person with some psychological knowledge understands the power of placebos. Even if the destruction or burial of a placenta makes no change other than slightly altering soil content, the mother’s faith is enough to have a very real physical effect on her and her family’s health. I’ve always found the concept of placebos to be fascinating, because the mind can make something out of nothing fairly easily. It is for that reason that I believe we need to consider cultural differences not only in birth, but in any medically related practice. Those that effect an entire family should be given extra attention, like birth and death. Since America is such a big melting pot, it’s important for anyone in the medical field (among other careers) to be easily adaptable to different sensitive culturally influenced rituals and beliefs. Additionally, since women have been doing things their own way since the dawn of humans, I think it’s time to let women do what they want in regards to pregnancy once again.

  2. Hi Casandra!

    Good for that you are planning on becoming an OB/GYN, that’s great! You have obviously had much training of the biomedical system of childbirth, but I am happy that you are able to see the spiritual and psychological side of childbirth as well. I also like how you mentioned that over 99% of childbirths in America occur in a hospital, that’s crazy! It is upsetting that there is a stigma regarding at home births and that they are seen as dangerous. I completely agree that hospital births are less emotional, and could potentially be traumatizing. Personally, I would mentally and emotionally be in a much better place if I was at home giving birth over a hospital birth. I believe that being in a space that you are comfortable in has a huge effect on your mental health. I also believe that when they take the baby away right after birth that it could have negative effects for the mother and the baby. I can’t even imagine the great deal of stress that the Inuit’s have experienced since they were forced to fly to America to give birth. The Inuit’s have a strong tradition on how to give birth and not being able to follow those traditions and not being able to be with your family or know how to speak the same language as the doctors must have taken a huge toll on their mental health.


  3. Hi Cassandra,

    I liked your last few sentences as well. I think other people’s traditions should be respected and they should be able to give birth how they see fit. Although like you probably do since your becoming an OB/GYN, I believe that western medicine is the best way to proceed. However, I do not believe it should be forced upon people of different cultures who have different beliefs, like how the Inuit or Hmong were. Even though we may not understand their reasoning or logic behind their process, I think sometimes we forget that they probably do not understand or agree with our process. One issue I found when finding an outside article was with C-sections. From the article I read C-section today performs 31 percent of births. A high percentage of those C-sections were unnecessarily performed, according to the article. Insinuating that medicine may be taking things a bit too far by taking unnecessary risk or performing unnecessary procedures. It just goes to show that while western medicine may be superior for birth compared to a non-medical setting solely based on mortality or complication rates, there are probably still areas of medicine that should be addressed or changed. Anyways, good post and good luck pursuing your career goals.

  4. Hello Cassandra! Really hope you fulfill your dreams on becoming an OB/GYN. I am also agree more with medicalized child birth because I have dreams of becoming a doctor of some sort to and I feel that traditional child birth is not as safe. I love how you included that the Hmong and Inuit are different process and respected that their way of life has more of a relationship with the “natural process.” When you included that poster in the doctor’s office, it really made me mad. Doctors are supposed to be respectful of their patients. If a patient would like to have a home delivery, I feel that it is she and her family’s choice. My parents are both born in Iraq. Back in their time, it was a place that home deliveries were normal. My mother was born at home because that is what her family choice, and she turned out fine. I thought that sign was very rude and disrespectful. I agree with your conclusion paragraph. I feel that medicalized childbirth eliminates family and spiritual connection. This made me think how Americans can fix this problem. Changing the birthing process in America will take a lot of time.

  5. Hi Cassandra,
    Great post! I think its very interesting that you want to become an OB/GYN.I agree that I am also biased towards the western way of childbirth but this is just because it is really all I have ever known. I liked you brought up that in Western society the baby is often taken away from the mother directly after birth, which was different than the cultures we are learning about. I think this is a very good point because I have hear before that a baby is actually healthier when it can feel and touch its mother right after birth, it reduces the stress it haves about leaving her body. I agree that when people such as the Inuit are forced to be put into hospitals for their births, they are losing some of their tradition. I’m sure with this it may not even be as healthy for them because of the stress they fell of being at a hospital. While this is something that may comfort someone who is practicing Western medicine, for others who are not use to it it could be unsettling and cause unnecessary stress. Finally, I liked how you stated at the end that hospitals don’t have a lot of room for religion and beliefs, and unfortunately this is true. It is not a bad thing that they follow science in order to cure people and save lives, but I think if the overall picture was addressed with peoples beliefs and religious views, it could be better for the patients. Overall great post!

Leave a Reply