W4: Is Medicalization Going too Far?

After finishing the course lectures, videos, and readings, I have come to have a better understanding of medicalization and its effect on different societies.  Reading about the different birthing systems really helped me to understand these concepts and to see how much our society really dismisses some of the ideas or traditions. For example, in the Hmong culture there seems to be this very personal birth system between the mother and her child. Although this is apparent in most cultures, it is really seen through the Hmong. For example, in the book there is a part in the first chapter where it discusses how the mother delivers the baby herself while the father comes in a couple times when needed for particular tasks (Fadiman, 1997). I believe that the Hmong are using a regular life birthing method instead of the medicalized one in this instance because they are not changing their birthing methods based on what others say. With that in mind, this makes me think about the lectures and how midwives and doctors were eventually separated and how doctors grew to have certain characteristics in our society because of our medicalization (Gabriel, Lecture 4.1).

Also, the Inuit mothers would use all sorts of traditional methods of giving birth in their huts and then being isolated for a certain amount of time afterwards (Gabriel, Lecture 4.2). These methods may seem difficult to understand to those who are not used to this or have not learned about it because they grew up with a different understanding of how a birth should be done. It may be harder for Americans to understand these methods because of how medicalized our society is. In the US, we are used to giving birth in the hospitals and being closely monitored instead of participating in these other methods.  Overall I think that the Americans have a very medicalized birthing experience compared to other cultures like the Hmong or Inuit.

Furthermore, after reading about birth in the US on the Baby Center website, I actually found that mothers think having a midwife instead of a gynecologist for birthing is more pleasurable (Baby Center, 2016).  Since the lecture brought up ideas about the hospital becoming a more popular place for mothers to give birth, this information can be confusing. If our society emphasized the importance of doctors and “the right” health care but women are preferring midwives, then why do a lot of women still give birth without midwives? Has medicalization had this much of an effect on women that they ignore other options which they could potentially prefer? Should our society start moving towards a regular life birth style?

Evonne Lack. Baby Center. “Birth in America Survey: 1,000 women tell it like it is”. Accessed July 28th 2016. http://www.babycenter.com/0_birth-in-america-survey-1-000-women-tell-it-like-it-is_10338347.bc

One thought on “W4: Is Medicalization Going too Far?

  1. Hi Haley,

    I really enjoyed your post because it brought up some interesting points and questions. As you said, the birthing process is very personal for every mother, but “natural” births appear to be a much more social experience. Not only do the women have absolute autonomy, but they are able to interact and share the experience with the community, which is said to strengthen the bonds between them. It really is amazing to think about how medicalized our country has become and the impact that it has on people. We seem to forget that up until a hundred or so years ago, which is a VERY short time in human history, we didn’t have hospital births and doctors running around with their fancy machines. Natural births must have been at least remotely successful, given that the human race continued to expand, rather than go extinct. In response to your questions, I would have to argue that a lot of the reasoning behind their choices would be due to cultural norms and taboos. I’m sure many expecting mothers consider their options when having a baby, but the social impact that others have on them may be overwhelming. I feel as though every other person in the world is telling the new mother what to do and how to do it and what doctor or midwife to see and what to eat, the list goes on. I recently experienced something similar when my sister had her baby last month, every single person had their own input and most of the advice was unsolicited. I would imagine that if a woman decided to have a baby “naturally” or outside of a hospital, there would be social repercussions, such as guilt, along the lines of “Don’t you want what’s best for the baby?”, etc. My personal opinion is that women should have their babies however they want to, as long as they are educated and safe about it.


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