The choice between “regular life” child birth and the more modern medicalized experience is a choice that women in many cultures have to make. For the Inuit people, who live in the northern most points in Canada, “regular life” childbirth was the most common way of the past. Today most Inuit women are flown south to give birth in hospitals. Before this practice began, Inuit women gave birth in a hut separate from the one in which they lived in. There were many different traditions that accompanied the birth of a child in the Inuit community. Shamans performed rituals and naming ceremonies took place in the first few days of the child’s life. As nurses from the United Kingdom began to work at clinics in Northern Canada they introduced the Inuit women to medicalized birth. At first it began with a few women who were flown south because they were sick or there were other complications. The serious cases were almost always evacuated to southern hospitals. As time progressed, more and more Inuit women began to evacuate the north to give birth to their child elsewhere. There are many problems that arise when going south to have a child. Some of them include the cost of the trip and hospital stay, being away from home and family members for an extended period of time, as well as not being familiar with the culture in the south. In an attempt to reclaim childbirth, some communities opened birthing centers with the help of midwives so that more Inuit women could give birth safely in the north. This is an example of the Inuit people wanting to retain cultural traditions that are slipping away from their communities.
In the United States, mainstream Americans primarily experience “medicalized” childbirth. The shift from childbirth in the home to childbirth in hospitals started around the beginning of the 20th century. It has become common practice to give birth in a hospital for many reasons. The doctors who give birth are trained professionals, the health of both mother and child can be monitored, and there is a lower risk of complications. However, a surprising number of maternal deaths are still occurring in the United States. According to an article by Kelly Wallace from CNN, the U.S. is one of only eight countries in the world where the maternal mortality rate is rising. The reason for this can be linked to the health of the mother before birth. Obesity can cause complications during childbirth, which is a major problem in the United States. So while “medicalized” childbirth reduces the risk for complications during a normal birth, if there are preexisting conditions complications can still occur.
Kelly Wallace, “Why is the maternal mortality rate going up in the United States?” CNN, December 11, 2015, accessed July 29, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/01/health/maternal-mortality-rate-u-s-increasing-why/