Week 4: The Medicalization of Childbirth
This week we turn to very sensitive and personal topics on women’s reproductive health and childbirth. While choosing to have a child or not and making decisions on childbirth are very personal, we have seen this week that those individual choices are linked to social factors.
While you are definitely free to add personal experiences to your posts this week, I ask everyone to be sensitive, respectful, nonjudgmental, and appreciative of those who are willing to share. Remember that we are discussing the social issues surrounding reproduction and childbirth, and in no way are we saying that one individual choice is better than another. Every way that women may give birth, whether in a hospital with a doctor, with a c-section, an epidural, no drugs, with a midwife, in a bathtub, on the bedroom floor, in a car… are all valid and should be highly commended. What I ask for in this discussion is to look beyond the individual choices and discuss social trends, cultural norms, medical authority, laws and policies that influence and constrain choices.
Here is a list of questions to consider after you view this week’s lectures, read the articles, and watch The Business of Being Born.
- Do you think we have over-medicalized pregnancy and childbirth? What do you think we should do, or not? Explain your answer using examples from the course materials this week and personal examples if you wish.
- Think about what you know of childbirth in the U.S. or other countries. How are birth options and medical decisions surrounding birth communicated to women, and what do you think are some effective ways to educate women on their choices?
- What new information about the social factors surrounding reproduction, pregnancy, and birthing have you learned from this week’s materials, and how have your views of reproduction, pregnancy, and childbirth in the U.S. changed, or not?
- The natural and home birth movement is small, yet growing, especially among white, educated, middle and upper class women. How might you explain this trend?
- How do cultural norms and social policies play a role in birthing trends? For instance, Brazil and the US have high rates of cesarean sections, including planned c-sections, which are not explained by medical necessities involving birthing emergencies.
- Connect what you found most interesting or surprising about the social factors related to childbirth from the Wertz & Wertz article, the Davis-Floyd article, and The Business of Being Born. Feel free to use materials from the lectures, Lorber chapter 5, and any of the optional materials.