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Baby Ways

Sep
6
2006

The hottest topic in this Sunday’s magazine of the leading Spanish daily newspaper was – childbirth. The entire letters section, all three pages, was devoted to responses to a column in El Pais’ Sunday magazine a few weeks ago, entitled “The Disaster of Giving Birth” (here in Spanish).
Writer Rosa Montero’s column basically said that Spanish procedures for giving birth are behind the times compared with other parts of the E.U. or even with what’s recommended by the World Health Organization, like avoiding giving episiotomies or drugs that intensify labor. The reigning medical view of childbirth is still “pathological, interventionist and hierarchical.” (My rough translations here.) Giving birth doesn’t have “to carry with it the trauma, nightmare and feeling of mistreatment that are often experienced in Spain….” In other parts of Europe, women aren’t routinely shaved, given enemas or have their waters broken; they can move around during labor, and try different techniques like massage or baths or sitting on big rubber balls to handle the contractions, she wrote.
Obviously she struck a nerve. The letters, roughly, were divided between currently and formerly pregnant women saying, “Oh yes! Time for some R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” and doctors saying, “Hey, nobody dies in childbirth anymore. What are you complaining about?” There was some crossover support, and of course doctor and pregnant woman are not mutually exclusive categories.
Perhaps in part because Spaniards are in the early stages of moving away from an old-fashioned, purely medicalized birth, you can see a wide gap between opinions. And that’s a shame, because the current approach is clearly one many other countries have moved away from.
This debate, and the move to give women more options in childbirth, is several decades along in the States. Not that we’ve figured it out. Certainly women have more choices, like birth centers and midwives and baths and balls, but that doesn’t mean all women get great treatment, or that we can predict what we’ll want or need, or that any of that matters a bit in the heat of the moment if a doctor’s recommending one path.
And plenty of other countries are ahead of the U.S. in consistently incorporating the procedures some women have been calling for to get support, not unnecessary intrusions, while having babies. In my small and informal survey, so far New Zealand sounds like a great place to have babies: how about free, home midwife visits after the birth? (For legal residents at least; sorry, pregnancy tourism will cost you.)
Although in New Zealand, as in the U.S., C-section rates are high and rising. Which is also supposed to be a bad thing, although not to the increasing numbers of women who are asking for cesareans just as an option.
This birth thing has been going on for quite a while now – you’d think we’d have it figured out.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 2:21 AM | Permalink

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