Birth: Spiritual, Homely, or Medical

The practices of childbirth have changed greatly as time has gone on. From bedroom births and fathers being the sole deliverer to almost all births being in hospitals with fathers sometimes in the waiting room; much has changed. What has changed the most is the experience of birth among women. Where a birth in a home done only with your life partner may have been romantic and sweet, hospital births are anything but. Talk about invading your privacy when there are six men looking at your lady parts while you are hoping you don’t defecate while pushing. Overall, the experience has drastically changed.

That being said, the experience now is much safer, cleaner, and goes according to plan MUCH more often. Home births with no trained professional can be dangerous for mother and baby and can add to the panic of the whole process. In the 90’s, it was thought home births vanished completely from the grid, left solely for the Amish, the Inuit, and the Hmong. However, recently it has seemed to become a bit of a trend and there have been an increased amount of tragedies in births directly related to births by midwifes and at-home. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology have found that at-home births have a 2-3 times higher chance of infant mortality than births performed at a hospital (Goldberg). The problem is that many midwives do not practice the same type of medical practice that doctors do, and where doctors can intervene in life or death situations, midwives don’t have the same capacity.

Hmong and Inuit women both practice traditional childbirth, which is different even from midwiffery births. This includes a series of following superstitions, traditions, and practices dating back past the westernization of childbirth. These superstitions and traditions derive from their views of religion, but also of life. This includes births being very private, noiseless, and personal between mother and father. The placenta has great significance to the birth, including the disposal of it after the birth (Fadiman). Fadiman states that the place of burial for the placenta is very symbolic for boys or girls because it symbolizes where they will return to upon death to  receive their placental jacket.

In comparison with one another, most US women decide to have hospital births which is truly a medical practice and look to medical professionals for advice and questions that they may have. However, women of other cultures and with Eastern influences within their culture rely on their spirituality to get them through times of pregnancy, looking at the pregnancy and birth itself as being a religious and spiritual experience.


Michelle Goldberg –

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.

2 thoughts on “Birth: Spiritual, Homely, or Medical

  1. I really enjoyed the points you made in your post. A lot of women’s main concern when it comes to the birthing process is safety, which I believe to be the most important. Although, you made a great point about how the birthing experience is a very intimate experience and that is lost sometimes in a hospital setting. It’s a part of the experience that I don’t think a lot of women these days think about, I surely have never considered that aspect. I always thought that if the time came, I would simply go straight to a hospital with no second thoughts. I also liked your information from the American Journal of Obstetrics. If you’re going to have a more natural childbirth, it is your responsibility to make it the safest process you can. It’s your responsibility to make sure you have all the help you will need in case anything goes wrong. That is hard to do if you come from a culture such as the Hmong people. If you grow up only knowing the religion and spiritual side of childbirth, then you can’t possibly know that there are other ways for childbirth. Just as I didn’t know that there was another perspective on the spiritual side of childbirth. Overall, I think it is super important for anyone approaching childbirth to be very educated on all of their options and the consequences of each one.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post, and I agree that there are difficulties that come along with having a baby without the proper care of those who have gone to school for many years, but I also understand the reasons as to why someone would like to have a baby at home. There are many dangers that could potentially come along with all forms of childbirth and I think it could be a good idea to possibility have some sort of training to become the midwife that helps a woman deliver a baby at home. I know there are many people who do what is familiar to them, and if a natural childbirth is what she wants, I think there should be people with enough training and the ability to aid a woman to have a perfectly safe and intimate pregnancy in the comfort of her own home. Personally, I would rather do it at a hospital, but that is because that is what I have grown up learning about.

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