W4: The Many Traditions Behind Giving Birth

It is interesting how different cultures view childbirth. As stated, some it is apart of everyday life, while for others it is highly medicalized procedure. Here in America, we are highly medicalized; birthing, for the most part, is done strictly at the hospital, and involves many doctors, nurses, drugs and procedural instruments. I personally find it extremely interesting to learn about the different ways various cultures view childbirth, and the many ways it can be preformed. I have really enjoyed these lectures as I was unaware of the different traditions there were surrounding childbirth, or even the fact that it was considered something more than just a medical procedure.

The Inuit were very traditional with their birthing practices. They believed that a women should give birth in a hut, separate from their home, and then be isolated for 1-2 months from their home (Gabriel 4.2). After the 1950s, when the Inuit people were put into villages, they lost their birthing rights. Babies began to be delivered by local hospitals. Eventually, in the 1980’s 98% of birthing Inuit women are evacuated to give birth in the south (Gabriel 4.2). At this point it has almost completely become medicalized as the Inuit traditions cannot be carried out in a hospital setting. I actually find this to be very sad, as this culture has lost a part of their tradition, something they have only ever known. At first I thought maybe sending these women south is really what is best for them, how safe can it be to deliver a baby in the northern weather conditions? But some great points were brought up of the consequences of sending women to travel so close to birth, to me, they outweighed the positive. The way I look at it, the Inuit people were forced to medicalize childbirth, which has taken away from their culture.

The Hmong people have their own traditional birthing practices as well. They chose to give birth themselves without any help from others, and that they must stay quiet during this birth. I find this so interesting because of how different it is from American’s culture and how loud women can be when giving birth. I actually have a friend that is Hmong that told me about this once. They also believe in burying the placenta after birth, although I find this different, as I’m sure many Americans do, it does make sense to me (Fadiman).

For the most part Americans don’t have much of a tradition when it comes to childbirth, except that it should be done at the hospital, this has actually been changing in recent years. In an ABC by Robert Virtue article published, a few American women have described why they feel giving birth is better for them and the baby. One of the main arguments being that if you are at your own home you are going to be more relaxed, as compared to a hospital. They also claim there is less risk of catching another disease from the hospital when you are at home. Most importantly, at home you are surrounded by people you care about and feel less stressed. I personally think that because of the way I grew up and the medical system I am use to, I would feel much better going to a hospital where I am surrounded by doctors. With that being said, I do also believe any person and culture should be allowed the choice to decide for themselves how they want to give birth.




3 thoughts on “W4: The Many Traditions Behind Giving Birth

  1. You did a really good job with summarizing some of the important main points in our course material. I really like how you pointed out that overtime the Inuit had a medicalized birthing system. It really makes me wonder if they weren’t forced to change their methods if they would still continue childbirth in huts or if it would have changed overtime into something else. This also brings up the idea of how certain people think they have some sort of dominance over others which makes them change their lifestyles in order form them to adapt to the “norm”. If the Inuit were perfectly fine with how they were performing childbirth, then why did changes have to be made just because it was different than the “norm”? Also, I think that it’s interesting how you mentioned that Americans don’t really have a childbirth “tradition”. Now that I think about it, it does seem like our culture has always gone to the hospital. However, I also think that some mothers are considering more of a natural method or option as generations continue to grow. Overall, our society is very medicalized and I think that really plays a role in why some individuals don’t really take the time to learn about other forms of childbirth in other cultures. I think that some people believe that people should only give birth in a hospital because that all that they have grown up to know. I wonder if this idea of medicalization is actually hurting our society instead of helping it like some individuals think it is.

  2. Hello, I enjoyed reading your post. I also found it very interesting to learn about the different ways cultures deal with childbirth. I was both unaware and surprised of the various methods people take especially the women. Realizing how the Hmong culture deals with childbirth fascinates me. I also found it difficult to understand how they want the women to be quiet during birth! As if they can control the pain and agony thrust upon them! I also agree with you that America technically doesn’t have a particular tradition in regard to childbirth besides being at a hospital. Everyone has their own beliefs and values when it comes to childbirth and considering how special this moment is for everyone, taking the appropriate steps themselves is necessary. I also thought it was interesting how the Hmong have somewhat of a taboo against medical procedures considering they don’t prefer patients dealing with doctors. This just goes to show the vast opinions in this world on this issue. You also brought up a good point about the Inuit forced in a way to musicalize birth, which is sad. Taking this from their culture shouldn’t be done. Learning from others and giving opinions is always a viable option. Good read!

  3. Hi Jennifer! I really enjoyed your post, again! I agree with you in the fact that I also find this whole topic of different ways of childbearing to be very interesting. I had never really thought about the fact that even though pregnancy and birth is something that has become very medicalized here in America, there are different cultures that focus on birth through different viewpoints. I thought it was very interesting to be able to concentrate on these different traditional aspects of the Hmong and Inuit people and their cultures throughout our lectures this week. I, too, think that it is sad that the medicalized and hospitalized versions of birth have become something that cannot be avoided in today’s world. I think traditions such as those of the Hmong and the Inuit peoples are parts of their heritage that should be embraced. Every effort to upkeep these traditions should be made, in order to respect their ways. Although there are positive aspects to medicalization, such as a decreased infant mortality rate, it is important to remember the traditions that childbearing and birth were once held upon. I think trying to maintain a good mixture of these traditions, along with focusing on the positives of medicalization, would create a happy intermediary aspect of childbearing.

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