WHILE THE FEMINIST movement may have focused more on the right to abortion than other reproductive rights, there is a growing acknowledgment in the US and elsewhere that women’s right to safe, natural childbirth is being severely threatened by the imposition of the medical model. In the medical system, pregnant women are treated as ‘sick’ and childbirth as a dangerous event deserving of any and all intervention designed to make the process as ‘safe’ as possible. A spate of blogs and books written by moms, midwives and other reproductive health advocates indicates that women aren’t taking this lying down. (Pun intended–research has shown that giving birth while lying on one’s back is detrimental to the labouring woman). A couple of books are: “Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born” by Tina Cassidy (see her blog here), and “Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care” by Jennifer Block. On the movie front, there’s Ricki Lake’s “The Business of Being Born,” “Home Delivery,” and “What Babies Want.”
Ironically, in this time where the use of technology is at an all time high, maternal mortality rates in the US are also abysmally high largely due to the increase in c-sections. Not only are women questioning births attended by doctors, but by midwives or any trained person. To quote an excerpt from “Pushed”:
Unassisted birth isn’t new. In the 1960s and 1970s it was often the only alternative to a hospital birth—a strapped down, separated from husband, guaranteed episiotomy birth—and the women who did it also gave birth to organized midwifery. “That’s what we were doing in the 1970s before there were any midwives,” says Peggy O’Mara, editor of Mothering. “It was part of the whole back-to-land movement and commune movement.” It was also a natural extension of the early feminist, grab-a-speculum-and-mirror-and-reclaim-your-body ethos, she said. “And I consider it a really legitimate response to certain environments. Where I lived in southern New Mexico, for instance, the choices were so poor that we just wanted to figure it out ourselves.”…For O’Mara, unassisted birth was the best women could do under the circumstances.
Until recently, most women in India had homebirths, usually assisted by a dai (traditional midwife) or other woman experienced in childbirth. But now, urban middle-class women are expected to birth in hospitals and the rate for c-sections among this strata is virtually the same as that of the industrialised countries. Still, dais do deliver 70% of India’s babies, given the fact that the same percentage of the population is rural. Yet the role of dais is ever-changing due to the state’s insistence upon training in medical standards of care, and their traditional knowledge is not respected (see the book “Birthing with Dignity” by Diane Smith and Jagori).
Newindpress.com has just published the story of Reba Daniel, who chose to give birth with only her husband present. Unassisted birth must happen all the time here to women who don’t have other options. But this is the first story I’ve found where an educated, professional woman did this of her own accord. Equally as impressive is that the article’s author is appreciative, and not critical, of the mother’s choice, since that is not how unassisted childbirth is being portrayed in Western media. The website Ms. Daniel got her idea from is here: http://unassistedchildbirth.com/
Yes, it is true that India has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, the main reasons being poverty, hunger and disease. But to those women who are physically fit and considering a hospitalised birth, I ask: why not give a thought to unassisted childbirth or homebirth with a dai?