Friday, October 10, 2008

Birth Violence & Birth Consumerism

Following my post from last week about Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which led me to consider the violence women may experience in the birth place, I came across some relevant quotes in the book Giving Birth by Sheila Kitzinger. The book is an older one (late 80's), but the quotes are strikingly on target for birth issues today:

"We are only now discovering the long-term destructive effect on human beings and families of treating women as if they were merely containers, to be opened and relieved of their contents; and of concentrating attention on a bag of muscle and a birth canal, rather than relating to, and caring for, the person to whom they belong. The violence which is a common element in childbirth today leaves many women feeling that birth has been a kind of rape. This sort of experience is not easily forgotten. It can shatter a woman's self-confidence, make her doubt her ability to mother her baby, destroy joy in the expression of her sexuality, and attack her very sense of self--the roots of her identity. It is psychologically mutilating."

I have posted before about birth as a consumer issue. CfM is the consumer organization dedicated to promoting the midwives model of care. Interestingly, this book takes a different angle on this than I have before:

"Increasingly, obstetricians have been forced by pressure from women to aim to 'satisfy the consumer,' as if they were running a supermarket...But a fundamental change in attitude is necessary. Women, after all, are not 'consumers.' They are producers. They give birth to babies. The commercial model is an unsuitable one. We need instead to develop a model of care based on a sense of community of service to support the natural process of birth and respond to women's needs."

I'd say this is a need filled by the midwives model of care!

Another interesting quote from this book is with regard to "old wives' tales."

"'Old wives' tales,' says the Oxford dictionary, are 'trivial stories, such as are told by garrulous old women.' It is significant that no one ever talks about 'old husbands' tales' or 'old doctors' tales.' Women are blamed instead. It is implied that there is poison in their speech and that the only safe thing to do is remain silent. The experiences that women share with other women are thus rejected and trivialized...In reality, it is not other women who instill and fuel anxiety in most pregnant women, but the medical system itself."

I think we should start to acknowledge the existence of "old doctors' tales." I've certainly heard a number of them!

A final quote from this book that feels relevant, "a good obstetrician works much better when he or she can work with the mother and not just on her."

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