The Best and Worst Places to Give Birth
For her book, Childbirth Across Cultures, my mother set out to see if other countries had figured out a better way to give birth. Instead she found that many countries have either adopted Western, medicalized births, or continue dangerous customs. It turns out a good birth is hard to find. Plus: Read about sweet and shocking birth traditions from around the world
The End of Joy in Childbirth?
Many wouldn’t consider this an inherent problem. After all, along with the exportation of American biotechnological birth, and the rise of c-sections, we’ve seen dramatic decreases in infant and maternal mortality rates. That’s probably not because of c-sections—infant mortality rates from voluntary c-sections are higher than they are for vaginal births—but because of improved health care and international strides to improve the safety of childbirth around the world.
The problem, as my mother sees it, is that making childbirth a medical experience detracts from it as an emotional experience. “We have given up the ecstasy of childbirth for a sterile, safe, vacant experience,” she writes. The joy is gone, and replaced with technology.
War of the Births
Women who have had c-sections might argue with her: mothers love their babies no matter how they gave birth to them, and what matters more than an ecstatic childbirth is a healthy child. What might be more serious is the lack of safe conditions in non-Western countries, and the lack of choice. Even with vast improvements in education of traditional birth attendants, and expansion of medical services to rural areas, childbirth is still very much a war all over the world.
No matter how you give birth, or where, my mother’s book reveals that in almost every culture, people are struggling for dominion over an experience that is almost impossible to control. Wanting that control is understandable, of course, especially when childbirth has been, historically, one of the most dangerous experiences a woman could have.