Childbirth rights globally

(153 Posts)
PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 13:51:41

I've spoken about this earlier on mumsnet. I think that the rights of women while giving birth are an integral part of the feminist movement, and I know that a lot of you agree. Until even a few years back, these rights were thought to be limited to women being able to choose a home birth, a natural birth or a VBAC. I've always believed that it is equally a woman's right to choose an elective caesarian or an epidural, as long as it is an informed choice.

In the UK, I am seeing a more balanced debate about this now. Most of my feminist friends here agree that it is wrong to deny women the right to choose how they want to give birth, even if what they choose is artificial pain relief or a surgery. Her body and her choice.

Unfortunately, I haven't noticed a similar trend in other countries, particularly the USA. I have relatives there and so I visit the USA quite frequently and the attitude of the self-proclaimed "feminists" there really surprises me. A lot of them think that women should be denied epidurals and caesarians. They even think that women should be denied repeat caesarians and be forced to VBAC.
In fact, I was told by a friend that the American pregnancy forums will delete any post that speaks positively of an epidural and/or caesarian.

Americans IMO have always been more ignorant grin, but isn't this a bit extreme even for them?

I fully support a woman's right to have a hands-off, non-medical birth if she prefers that and I find it horrifying that women are being forced into caesarians or forceps without consent. But how will we solve this problem by denying other women their choices? The answer is to enforce an adult, sane woman's right to both refuse and request reasonable treatment while giving birth.

Some women want a medicalised birth and others want a natural birth. Why oh why can't we just leave all of them alone to make their own choices as adults?? And why does the American feminist movement align itself only to an all-natural birth? Doesn't that actually put pressure on women to do things in a certain way and maybe even set them up for disappointment if that does't happen?

For a movement with a motto like "her body and her choice" sometimes we sure like to tell women what to do with their bodies!

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:56

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:56

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:57

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:58

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:59

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:59

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:00:00

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:00:03

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:00:04

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AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:03:52

Sorry for multiple posts. stupid phone.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 18:13:26


It's a famous book available at any bookstore or online. You can read it and verify what I am saying. Nobody is asking you to take it at face value.

Nowhere will you find Naomi Woolf acknowledging that some women want and choose caesarians. Nowhere does she give a balanced point of view about the pros and cons of epidurals and caesarians.

She spends the book scaremongering about imagined risks of surgery and insisting that caesarians and all interventions are the devil. Clearly, you will not find this woman blogging or writing about a woman's right to choose a surgery she so loathes.

In fact, like I have stated earlier (and what is the point of this thread) is that no prominent feminist has ever taken it upon herself to right for the rights of women to choose pain relief and c-sections. Now do you see what I am trying to say?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 18:14:17

*to fight for, not right for.


AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:22:11

I own that book. Of course I can read it (when I am at home). But when someone says X says Y it is normal PARD to be able to say where. Not just generally point to a book and patronisingly point out that you can get it at the library.

Since I do recall NW had a second section which was a very positive experience after her first, I am fairly sure you are wildly wrong about her laothing the operation though.

Your general synopsis of her book also does not accord with my recollection either.

But as I understand it, in the US it's not really a big problem getting epidurals and sections. Or at least, it's not seen to be a problem. So why would they fight for women to have a right that they think already exists?

It's not like in the UK where women have to go into labour not knowing whether they will be able to get an epidural if they want one (or in some cases know for a fact it won't be an option).

I gave birth in the UK, where I did feel pain relief was a big problem and that informs my views on women needing to have these rights. If I gave birth in the US and felt they were pressuring me to have interventions I didn't need, I might feel very differently.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 18:28:13

Just answer one question- can you give me an example of one feminist who has written, blogged or publicly spoken about a woman's right to choose an epidural and/or c-section? Just one?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 18:31:43


Yes, epidurals are available in most areas of the USA (although not all). As far as women having the right to choose c-sections in the USA- there is no such right.

My SIL is American and lives in New Jersey. She asked for a c-section and was turned down by 5 doctors in her area.

It is as much a lottery system as it is here. Women who can pay out of pocket can have more flexibility and can therefore choose a c-section, but many,many doctors in the USA will not even consider performing one on request.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 18:32:58

I agree Dreaming. And that is my recollection of Misconceptions. A book written in a certain time and place about the issues in that time and place. She talks a lot about women being 'sold' the idea of natural birth and a lovely birthing centre, but hardly anyone getting to give birth there, routine episiotomy and dilation measured at 1cm pee hour. That is not the same as being anti intervention. It is about addressing her issues. if epidural is routinely offered-even pushed - campaigning for availability won't be part of your agenda.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 18:36:33

So let's talk about the current feminist agenda when it comes to childbirth if you feel that Misconceptions was about a different time and place.

I repeat my question- give me one feminist who is currently fighting for a woman's right to choose an elective c-section and/or an epidural (in areas where it is not available)?

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 19:14:13

OP your initial issue was with American feminists campaigning against a women's right to have epidural or c-section.

Your revised issue is that no one is campaigning for the right, not against. Dreaming has given you a clear and considered reason for this:
in the US it's not really a big problem getting epidurals and sections. Or at least, it's not seen to be a problem. So why would they fight for women to have a right that they think already exists?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:21:23


And I have just told you that women in the USA do not have the right to demand and get a c-section. Many, many women are refused that request. Epidurals may be more available than they are here, but that doesn't hold true for all states.

I have also asserted that many American feminists that I have personally met and interacted with do not support the right to request and demand pain relief and c-sections at all. I have also given you online links to the blogs of self-proclaimed feminists who do not believe in that right either.

If you still choose to remain in denial, then it's best that we agree to disagree.

Not read carefully or endorsed but just a quick google brings up lots.

Are they famous feminists? I guess not. Does that matter? Are you only interested in what the famous feminists have to say?

I see this as an issue currently being contested within the feminist movement. I don't see it as 'the feminist movement has rejected epidurals'.

I would absolutely support a campaign for better epidural access and I suspect many other feminists would as well.

I don't think the trend toward natural childbirth in the US is just a result of feminist agitation -- there are other powerful drivers at work. Feminist opinion leaders are not going to push against that and risk alienating their most likely audience.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:35:40

Here you are you then-

The famous American feminist website ourbodiesourselves has a 2- page article that refuses to acknowledge that women like myself who request c-sections even exist.

It concludes that the practice of maternal request c-section is unethical -

"I came away from the conference with the feeling that it was an exercise in torturing the data so that the panel could pronounce that it was still fine for women to ask for and obstetricians to perform cesarean sections for no medical indication. The lack of critical thinking and common sense on the part of the panelists left me incredulous. In my opinion the conference was a waste of tax dollars in the production of a misleading and dishonest report."

Essentially, this "feminist" author has an issue with the fact that some obstetricians are performing caesarians on request.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:38:16


hmm No, i don't only care what "famous feminists" have to say, but you cannot deny that they are the ones with influence. Therefore, the agenda that they push the hardest will be the most noticed.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 19:41:52

You've given one single link, to back up your claim that ignorant American feminists are trying to take away our right to epidural and c-sections. This link was to a doulas blog who states on it :
I try, in my own way, through this blog, my work as a doula, and conversations with friends, to spread the idea of what I think the REAL feminist way to give birth is: To Be Informed! It is liberating to be informed. Be knowledgeable of all your options before birth, during birth, during emergencies, and after birth. That way you understand the pros and cons, the benefits and risks, of every single care provider, procedure, piece of equipment, and treatment. That way you'll make an informed choice and you'll know whats really best for your body and your life

I've looked through the entire link. I still failing to see this as evidence of a dark wing of feminism who are trying to remove our rights to pain relief and c-sections. But if you think it's really there then I will agree with you that they are not focusing their efforts in the right place.

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