W4: The Good and the bad

Some of the most naturally occurring things can be manipulated into medical norms by the means of culture (Gabriel). For example, something insanely natural, birth, has turned into a medical fiasco in America. Birth, along with eating and dying, has been given medical traits over recent years (Gabriel). This is the norm in America, but what about in other cultures? During this week, we took a look at the Inuits and the Hmongs. Their traditional ways of birthing provide a different take on events because birth, to these two groups of people, is just part of regular life (Gabriel).

There are many bad and good traits in a “medicalized” versus ”regular life” childbirth. Depending on who you are, you can feel very different towards a certain way of giving birth. For example, the Inuit cherish their traditional way of childbirth (Gabriel). The Inutis originated in northern Canada and had a very distinct playbook for childbirth. When the government became more involved in their day-to-day life, the Inuits traditional form of childbirth became complicated (Gabriel). Since there was not much proper medical care available in Northern Canada, mothers had to be flown to southern Canada to receive proper care (Gabriel). This was not very comfortable for the mother for many of reasons, but especially if the mother had other children at home (Gabriel). Because of these reason the Inuits prefer to include the childbirth process as a part of everyday life.

Another group of people that feel strongly towards one type of childbirth is the Hmongs. The Hmongs follow a very planned out birthing process. This process includes giving birth within the home and keeping silent during birth (Fadiman). One of the most important things to do after childbirth is to burry the placenta (Fadiman). If the placenta isn’t barred properly, the Hmongs believe that it would affect their child’s afterlife (Fadiman). When some Hmongs left their homeland of Laos and gave birth to their children in hospitals, the placenta could not be retrieved easily (Fadiman). This led Hmongs to believe in a more traditional birthing style.

Most main steam Americans believe that “medicalized” childbirth is safer than more traditional ways (Stellpflug). All though this can be proven true, there are some downsides to the medicalization of childbirth. The Inuit and Hmong people do not use drugs like epidural. Epidurals can interfere with normal feedback between muscles in the pelvis and the mother signals from the brain during childbirth (Stellpflug). All drugs have side effects, so things like the eye drops given to babies after they are born can affect their eyesight (Stellpflug). This has helped many new born babies, but it has also gone wrong.

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.

Gabriel, Cynthia, Ph. D. “Inuit Birth” Lecture, Online, July 28, 2016.

Gabriel, Cynthia, Ph. D. “”Medicalization” of Everyday Life.” Lecture, Online, July 28, 2016.

Stellpflug, Craig. “The Medicalization of Childbirth.” NaturalNews. June 22, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2016. http://www.naturalnews.com/036252_childbirth_medicalization_delivery_rooms.html.

6 thoughts on “W4: The Good and the bad

  1. Hi Lauren,

    I really liked your post. And I think you are right we took something very natural and turned it into something almost mechanical. We are to the point where women can have elective C-Sections and almost decide when they want to give birth. Like a “No Tuesday does not work for me how about Monday at 3:00pm”. And I’m not trying to make it seem like I am against medicalizing – I want to be a physician and do believe in hospital birthing’s. But I also believe in the right to choose how/where it is done based on beliefs. Although uncommon in American women can choose to give birth at home with midwives, I am just concerned that the Inuit do not get this option because the medicalized birthing process is pushed onto them.
    Additionally, you mentioned some of the hospital practices like epidural and eye drops. One reason I advocate for hospital births is the tests we run on the child after birth, (testing ears eyes, PKU disease etc.) but wouldn’t it be easier to teach some of the women of the village these techniques than disturbing these women’s lives to fly them down. Or mess with the placental practices of the Hmong. Overall really good post- Thanks

  2. A lot of the issues we encountered this week seemed to have been caused by one culture trying to interfere with another culture’s way of life, namely the Inuits and Canada. As you mentioned, the women were just fine giving birth at home, but when the Canadian government began flying mothers to hospitals in the Southern part of the country there was a lot of cultural and personal strife that followed. Personally, I don’t understand what good can come from removing somebody from their home to come and abide by your rules that they really shouldn’t have to follow. In the Inuit’s case, it made their practices of breastfeeding very difficult since the mothers from the Inuit tribe breastfeed their children for up to 3 years after they’re born. The Canadian government overstepped their boundaries, in my opinion. Even in the Hmong’s case where they had issues trying to get the placenta for burial. When one culture decides to step in (without being asked) and impose their own views on another culture, problems start to brew and people get upset. As a result it forces change for both parties, because at some point one side will not be content anymore and stand up to the oppressors. There was a lot of cool information this week, and a lot came to light especially regarding the differences between traditional and western medicalization. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I really liked your post! You brought up some really good points for and against the medicalization of childbirth. I do believe that giving birth in a hospital where there is trained medical staff is a very good option. There are so many things can go wrong before, during, and after a birth, and while the act of giving birth is very rough, it is also an extremely delicate process. Having a medical team there to assist you physically and emotionally is comforting (and safe) in my opinion. However, there is a lot of paperwork that goes along with bringing another child into the world, just like you mentioned. It truly is kind of mechanical. I think the Hmong and the Inuit are more intimate with their birthing processes for this reason. Giving birth is an art to them, and should be celebrated and cherished and not overshadowed by the legality and nitty gritty of it all.
    I do like how you mentioned epidurals, which seems to be the epitome of a medicalized birth. While I couldn’t ever imagine going through childbirth without the assistance of a pain killer, people from all over the world have been doing it without it for ages. I have just gotten used to the whole medicalized routine: pregnancy means going to check ups and prenatal care and child birth means going to a hospital in a sterile setting and using epidurals to numb the pain. However, I am becoming more and more aware of the effects of the epidural. I know a lot of ladies who struggle with back pain now, which is a side effect. In this aspect, I have to hand it to the ladies around the world who have been doing natural births for ages!

  4. Hi Lauren! I agree with you that America has really changed the natural birthing process. I also believe that many women our age do not know anything different. I surely had no idea how “medicalized” the birthing process has become. I assumed that there was not really any other way, let alone cultural traditions. I understand that a “medicalized” childbirth can be safer and I would most likely pick that route as well, but I wish the information about the consequences were more readily available. Such as what you said about epidural side effects, it is such a norm now that some women might not even know that anything could go wrong. They might not know the right questions to ask either. I also believe no matter what route is chosen, that it is a personal choice. Whether you want a very natural child birth or a very “medicalized” one, that is your decision. I for one, could never imagine having a natural childbirth. I used to think those women were crazy. Although, after this weeks lectures I now have a better understanding on their decision. Childbirth is a very scary and hard situation no matter how it happens, so the route chosen should be considered carefully and ultimately dependent on the mother.

  5. I thought you brought up some great points. I liked how you explained the way in which America has turned into this big medical issue rather than naturally dealing with childbirth. Back in the day people didn’t have the accessibility to hospitals and medication like they do today but everyone seemed to manage and still get by! Although I do believe medicalized births have their benefits, I just think it has gotten a little too dramatic. I found it unfortunate and sad that the government intruded the Inuit culture and complicated the birthing process. Taking the idea of a natural birth away from mothers is something that shouldn’t be done. What you mentioned about the Hmong’s natural birthing process is essential. I didn’t realize they burry the placenta after childbirth. I found it fascinating and makes me ask the question, do other cultures do anything similar to this? What are the natural birthing processes in other parts of the world? Every culture has to have some form or another of rituals or beliefs. It just goes to show how odd or unexpected cultures can get in regard to this topic, which fascinates me. I enjoyed reading your post! Keep it up.

  6. Lauren, I really enjoyed reading your post, I really liked the way you explained how we are taking the beauty of child birth away in order to have some sort of debate about what is good and what is bad. There are good and bads to just about anything out there, and no matter how many flaws there may be, some people are still going to do it. when it comes down to it, people are going to do what they want to do, after all, the baby is THEIRS, and the baby is inside her, therefore it is kind of hard to force someone to do something she doesn’t want to do. I have grown up thinking everyone goes to the hospital to have baby, but that is far from correct. Just because it is the way I have learned does not make it the correct way, and I am sure people who grow up in families who value at home births believe their way is the best way to have a baby. I don’t think it is fair to tell someone their view of pregnancy is wrong, it simply comes down to the way he or she has grown up, and their values they hold.

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