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!

vesuvia Sun 28-Jul-13 14:57:13

OP wrote - "why does the American feminist movement align itself only to an all-natural birth?"

NOW, which is the largest organisation of feminist activists in the USA, has supported efforts to introduce legislation to prohibit "coercing any woman to accept any particular reproductive treatment option -- such as childbearing, cesarean delivery, or sterilization -- or denying her any options in treatment."


vesuvia Sun 28-Jul-13 15:02:31

OP wrote - "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."

Can you give us any web links to some examples?

LeBFG Sun 28-Jul-13 15:04:18

I don't understand. I thought the Statesiders where all for medicalised births? And feminists were saying this trend originates in medical misoginism....thus there was a pro-woman movement to encourage natural birthing <admit to very little knowlege in this area>. Would be interested to know.

PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 15:16:10


I stated what I did based on my interactions with women from different parts of the USA. I'm not sure how to provide web links to those ;) but I can illustrate my point better.

If you go on to any American feminist website such as ourbodiesourselves or, you will see that their is overwhelming support for women who want to choose home birth and VBAC (which is a very good thing). Unfortunately, there is not even one piece that supports a woman's right to choose the other options such as epidurals and/or caesarians. Or try the feminist corners of Babycentre Community USA and CafeMom (basically American versions of mumsnet). You'll find venomous opposition to women choosing a more medicalised approach to childbirth. Have you ever come across the blog by "TheFeministBreeder"? She is an American "feminist" who has made a living off telling people that women should be forced to have natural births and that they should be forced to breastfeed. She opposes formula feeding, elective caesarians and epidurals.

Thanks for the link to NOW. However, I don't think that it necessarily supports the right to choose treatment. It certainly supports the right to refuse treatment which is excellent and necessary. However, it states that women shouldn't be denied options in their treatment- this can mean many things. It doesn't (to me) necessarily mean that women have the right to choose a home birth, VBAC, caesarian or epidural. I would personally want these things spelt out more clearly.

Most feminist books which address the topic of childbirth- The Whole Woman etc. portray natural birth as the only acceptable way.

Anyway, this discussion is not meant to be an argument or a one-upmanship. I would rather you shared your own personal opinions on the subject and maybe even your experiences giving birth.

PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 15:20:19


Birth are more medicalised in the USA than they are here- so you're right about that.

It is a woman's right to refuse treatment and to have a natural, hands-off birth if that's what she wants- so again, you're right about that smile

However, my point is that the feminist movement should be about choices. It should be women themselves who get to decide how they will give birth and these choices should include less medical ones such as home births as well as more medical ones such as caesarians on request.

I would argue that medical misogyny is denying women choices and forcing any treatment on them. A medicalised birth in and of itself is not anti-woman, since many women would prefer it that way.

kalidasa Sun 28-Jul-13 15:40:53

I agree with you but perhaps in the States it is a matter of context? Because the majority of births over there are, in fact, very highly medicalised it is women who oppose that or want to have the choice of a more "natural" approach who feel they need to shout loudly about it. I agree that these blogs/websites can sound very shrill and one-sided read from the UK - where we are used to lots of NHS promotion of natural birth and breastfeeding and so on so it can seem like the "official" position - but perhaps they read differently and could even seem important and refreshing if every time you visit your OB/GYN they take an epidural/bed-bound birth/continuous monitoring (or whatever) for granted.

PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 16:34:06


I see where you're coming from, but to be honest it isn't that straightforward to get caesarians or epidurals in the USA either. Some parts are quite pro-natural there as well (Oregan, Michigan, Ohio, the Dakotas, Wyoming etc.) and aren't really supportive of different choices.

I think in USA the medical establishment seems to think- if we force the patient to have a caesarian it's OK but if the patient requests it, we will refuse. In other words- patient has no power at all.

Bunnylion Sun 28-Jul-13 18:26:55

One reason that natural birth has been so strongly embraced by some feminists is because opting for a medicalised birth is sometimes because the woman doesn't think her body is capable of the one incredible thing that women are able to do. This equate choosing a medicalised birth as a woman saying she that is disempowered as a woman.

However the idea of removing her right to birth how she wants certainly wont empower her.

There are certain risks in medicalising birth. Culturally work needs to be done on how we view childbirth, so our choices are not based on fear alone.

PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 19:06:29


"the one amazing thing that women's bodies are able to do" hmm hmm

I think women's bodies can do lots of amazing things other than childbirth. I would argue that reducing a woman's worth to pushing something out her vagina is a form of objectification. That is disempowerment.

Again, every woman will have her own perception of this. I didn't find pregnancy amazing or empowering. I felt like an incubator and the whole thing felt like I was losing control of my autonomy and body.

Breastfeeding is another amazing thing women's bodies can do, but I never once felt "disempowered" while formula feeding. I chose to formula feed- I was aware of the pros and cons and this is what I wanted to do. Had I been forced to breastfeed, that would have disempowered me and angered me immensely.

I agree that we need cultural change. However, the cultural perception is that women who birth naturally and breastfeed are the best mothers. I would like to see this perception change because it is untrue and damaging.

One reason that natural birth has been so strongly embraced by some feminists is because opting for a medicalised birth is sometimes because the woman doesn't think her body is capable of the one incredible thing that women are able to do. This equate choosing a medicalised birth as a woman saying she that is disempowered as a woman.

What kind of feminist position would that be? It's like being pro-choice and then listing the reasons for abortion which you personally think are acceptable. Once you've said that women deserve autonomy over their bodies then there cannot be "if" and "but" clauses to it (which feminists have been increasingly attaching). If she doesn't think a natural birth is right for her, then that's that. Why she thinks so is irrelevant. It's her mind to make up.

There are certain risks in medicalising birth. Culturally work needs to be done on how we view childbirth, so our choices are not based on fear alone.

Of course there are risks in medicalising childbirth. There are also risks in having a home birth and VBAC. So what? That's what an informed choice is all about isn't it? Choosing your risks?

I don't think women base these choices on fear alone. When I chose an elective caesarian, I did it based on my evaluation of scientific evidence. I preferred the risks of a caesarian.

There are certainly some women who are terrified of vaginal birth ( a condition called 'tokophobia') and that fear is not trivial. It is often a result of PTSD, sexual abuse or anxiety and should never be dismissed. Most tokophobic women do better with planned caesarians instead of forced vaginal births.

Bunnylion Sun 28-Jul-13 19:40:14

Blimey - I'm agreeing with you.

I was simply explaining why some feminists see a natural birth as better than a medicalised birth.

And apologies that to didn't say "one of the amazing things a woman's body can do", obviously there's a lot of other stuff we can do as well. But my acknowledging that a woman is able to give birth and that it is an amazing thing that only women can do isn't objectifying our sex.

PeaceAndHope Sun 28-Jul-13 19:55:00

Oh I know you were! I was just addressing the reasons you had given to explain why feminists think the way they do about this. Sorry if I came off as militant smile

And yes, childbirth is an amazing thing that women can do. I agree. However, IMO too much focus on it can reduce women to objects which have been put on earth to push things out their vagina.

FreyaSnow Mon 29-Jul-13 11:35:03

The US feminists I have met face to face are strongly in favour of c-section as being the way they want to give birth.

I don't know why the opposing view has taken hold of the internet. I did read (although don't have the links anymore) that some of the legislation around miscarriages and defending the foetus from negative actions by the mother (and the mother being charged with criminal offences or taken to court to prevent her actions) were being used to prevent women giving birth without medical interventions, because hospitals were claiming they were acting in the baby's best interest by intervening. That would certainly then be a feminist issue around medicalised birth. That isn't a justification for people being against all c-sections, but debates often become polarised and over-simplified.

PeaceAndHope Sat 10-Aug-13 05:03:44


Really? US feminists (or any feminists) in favour of elective c-sections? hmm

I completely agree with the concern over how the miscarriage laws and forced medicalisation disempower women, but I don't understand why that has been misconstrued to mean that all caesarians are bad.

NiceTabard Sat 10-Aug-13 22:57:36

This has a huge cultural context that I am pretty ignorant of, not being from the US or having family or friends there etc.

I agree with you that informed choice is what is needed and women should be given this at all stages of pregnancy and birth.

I know that in most countries around the world this does not happen. And as you point out varies even within parts of countries as well.

For myself, I think that the whole pregnancy / birth thing seems to have been wrapped up in a huge amount of dichotomy, disagreement, argument and so on. And I don't really understand why. Women (and girls) should be able to decide when to get pregnant , and by whom, and how they give birth, and how they feed. And very importantly women should be given access to contraception and abortion. And also very importantly, should be given access to support if they develop problems due to pregnancy,... AHA going on a rant there!

OK birth.


On MN people get in massive arguments about "natural" birth vs not (and different people will define natural in different ways), and about feeding.

I say that however you give birth in the UK, it is relatively safe and there is really no difference between VB/CS or VBAC. Mortaility wise. I do think there is a problem with non mortality risks of VB not being "advertised" while all the risks of CS are. I think that is wrong and may tie in with what you are saying about the US.

The "natural" birth thing is prob a response to medicalisation as others have said.

BUT do you all know that the US has a really high rate of maternal/baby mortality????

So maybe that is to do with it - the insured are all being more or less forced into CS as that makes the money and the women without insurance are experiencing poor levels of care (or none? I don't know what goes on with medicine in poor US places TBH). So in those cases cheaper "natural" birth would be helpful? Is that where they're coming from???

NiceTabard Sat 10-Aug-13 23:04:41
NiceTabard Sat 10-Aug-13 23:08:07

table from CIA on maternal mortality start from the bottom

Is this where feminists are coming from, that so many women are dying in a insured/medicalised culture that "traditional" midwifery skills might assist in certain communities where care in a medical environment is not available?

Am I being too optimistic??

KaseyM Sat 10-Aug-13 23:22:55

That is horrific. That your chances of dying are affected by your race or your income. Just awful.

NiceTabard Sun 11-Aug-13 00:08:00

Yes it is horrific. But probably a conversation for the politics topic!

I am glad of the NHS, we are so lucky here to have it.

Childbirth / mortality stats are interesting. Throws up a lot of conversation. Prob a bit wide for this thread though!

I can well imagine that in some areas of the states , denying women proper care / pain relief and so on is a foregone conclusion and a natural consequence of right wing/religious beliefs.

Adam and eve innit. Eve was punished by pain in childbirth. Lots of religious christian types see that as something that is required. Zero fuckage given by them on the hurty front.

Makes me want to go and inflict some pain. But, hah. I'm a nice person. I wouldn't deny pain relief to anyone. They would only deny it to women in childbirth, obv. I expect they get painkillers when they get a strong knee to the knackers. And I hope that happens a lot <evil> But still not really... And I doubt it does.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 00:09:19


The maternal mortality rates in the US are 24 per 100,000 (admittedly high for a first world nation). However that has nothing to do with the c-section rates.

The c-section rate in Australia is the same as the USA and their maternal mortality rates are less than 12 per 100,000 women.

The main problem in the USA is that until recently, there was no healthcare system in place that supported those who couldn't pay out of pocket or those who didn't have insurance.

Given that millions of women in the USA (especially immigrant women) are uninsured, it is no surprise that they don't get optimal care during labour and birth.

This has nothing to do with the medicalisation of childbirth, it has more to do with a lack of access to proper healthcare.

Perhaps a system where there are midwives as well as OBs might be beneficial, but that doesn't justify the attack on women who choose c-sections. The two are unrelated.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 10:32:46

I'm 9 months pregnant, having my baby in the UK and DH is American. I have discussed birthing with a lot of America women recently and am aware of the US system of both maternity and general healthcare.

I've honestly not ever heard of any American feminist speaking in the way that you have said, 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 .

Do you have a link to anything online where you've heard feminists saying that a woman should have her birthing rights removed and why?

Whether American feminists drop their logic when it comes to birthing or not, birthing rights are a very important feminist issue.

I know many women here in the UK who feel their rights were not treated with importance and their voices not heard during pregnancy and labour. In the US I know some women who have felt that birth is something that happens to them, managed by many men and women in scrubs, escalating medical intervention disturbingly quickly and possibly unnecessarily.

Both sets of women suffered unnecessarily due to the control, respect and decision making being removed from them - something I can't see any feminist wanting to add to, wherever she's from.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 12:45:01


Visit any American feminist website- ourbodiesourselves, feministing, or any other. Visit any American parenting website- babycentre community, CafeMom or the American Pregnancy Association.
You will find an all-pervasive agenda against epidurals and caesarians.

I have spoken to many American women who identify as feminists since I lived there for a while. Their sole agenda is to discourage epidurals and caesarians. The rights of women who want to choose pain relief or an elective caesarian don't even feature on their list of things to address.

I'm American and a feminist and I honestly have no idea what you're on about. You talked to some people and read a few blogs and now you know what American feminists think about this? Really? Most of us don't blog and have never met you. I don't personally know any American feminists who would agree with the views you've put here.

To say Americans are ignorant, even with a smiley face, is bloody rude too.

I agree with a lot of what you say about choices but I find it odd you're focusing on the US when in my experience it's in the UK that women who want electives and epidurals may face more problems. There are maternity hospitals in the UK that don't even offer epidurals, I'm not sure you would find that in the US. As noted, it is this kind of context that explains the viewpoints of activist movements. Obviously if people want more choice and autonomy they will advocate for the things they feel are currently denied them.

At any rate it is a rather privileged debate isn't it? 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world and most of those could be prevented if women had access to proper healthcare. I'm not saying we shouldn't care about our rights at home, but I do wish sometimes we would remember how lucky we are instead of arguing over whose choices are better. Compared to most women in the world both choices are pretty damn good.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 13:09:33

I'm aware of these sites and have just looked at all of them again to search for evidence of anything supporting your statement 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

Providing personal opinion, education and statistics in support of natural birth isn't by default saying a woman should be denied the right to pain relief or caesarian. But feel free to detect link if I'm wrong.

I agree with dreaming that our level of care in both countries is far superior to the majority of women in the world, for which we are very fortunate. Bit I still feel it is worthy of discussion in the same way that acid atacks in Pakistan do not make our discussions on ladmags redundant.

Oh I agree, it's absolutely worthy of discussion.

I just think sometimes there is a bit of drama/hysteria on both sides of these debates that a global perspective might help alleviate a little bit.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 14:32:10


There isn't a single blog post on any feminist website whether American or otherwise that talks about a woman's right to demand pain relief or an elective caesarian. Not one.

Feminists like Naomi Woolf have gone on record to say that elective caesarians shouldn't be allowed and there are plenty of other similar opinions that you will find both online and in the real world.

I am certainly not implying that all feminists think like that. Nor am I implying that their concern over unnecessary interventions being used forcefully on women is unfounded. I am merely saying that women like myself who were denied pain relief and the right to choose a caesarian often feel like our rights and feelings don't feature anywhere on the feminist agenda.

Be honest- when was the last time you saw a feminist supporting the right to request pain relief and/or a c-section? The agenda focuses only on natural birth.


I didn't mean to offend anyone. I agree that this is a privileged debate. But then so are things like hot water in the shower. The women in Afghanistan aren't allowed to bathe because the limited water available is used for men. So if you stop getting hot water in your shower, shall I turn around and tell you to stop complaining because it's a privileged problem? No, because by virtue of living in the first world there are certain things that one expects. It doesn't mean we don't care about the plight of women elsewhere!

Since you say that you are an American feminist, please prove me wrong. Do you think that women have as much a right to demand and get an epidural as they do to have a natural birth? Do you think we have as much a right to choose a caesarian as to have a home birth? Do you support the choice to have a repeat caesarian as much as a VBAC?

If the answers are 'yes', then why don't feminists talk about both sides of the spectrum instead of advocating for just one?

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 14:51:53

I'm not asking you for proof that all feminists think like that, I'm asking for a link to just one.

It's terrible that you were denied pain relief during labour, really terrible - but I'm sure it wasn't because of any debate in the labour ward as to whether you should be denied it because of any feminist ideology.

The right to pain relief is an issue that all feminists who I've personally discussed birth with agree is a basic right of any women. Any feminist who states she wishes to deny a woman a right to pain relief isn't a feminist, I've just not met any of these people who you are talking about - which is why I keep asking for a link.

Right now I feel like you are saying that some people are proposing removing the rights of women to pain relief during labour based on a bizarre feminist argument, I don't see it anywhere but again - link something that backs up your claim and I'd like to discuss.

Either way I believe we all strongly agree with you that pain relief is a basic right during labour and shouldn't ever be denied.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 15:11:18


There is the real life example of Naomi Woolf (and quite a famous feminist at that). If you want another specific example, look at the blog of TheFeministBreeder (a self proclaimed American feminist) who has made a career out of shaming women who opt for epidurals, caesarians and formula. How much more specific can I get?

We have all had our own individual experiences in real life and on online forums. I have already told you that I have met American feminists face to face who think like this. The discussions we have had individually with feminists are our own specific experiences. smile The purpose of this thread is not to argue about that.

I could ask you for a link (just one link) that shows a feminist arguing in favour of an elective caesarian, epidural or the right to choose formula. You won't find it.You will only find them arguing in favour of VBAC, home birth and breastfeeding.

I am not entirely certain that the feminist movement is blameless in women like myself being denied pain relief. The rise of the natural birth movement is largely due to the efforts of feminists and this has indirectly (IMO) led to restricted access to pain relief with more and more women being told how "empowering" natural birth can be.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 15:17:43

Here is an even more specific link-

An American feminist openly stating that she doesn't agree with women choosing elective caesarians or epidurals. Her concern about court ordered c-section is spot-on, so I won't argue with that at all. But she demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding as to why someone would prefer an epidural or a c-section. It isn't because we think that obstetricians know best, it's because we want a say in how our birth happens. She seems to think that a c-section can never really be a choice and most women who choose one are misinformed which I find highly offensive.

I'm happy to prove you wrong. I absolutely believe women should have the right to epidurals, elective sections and repeat sections. I totally agree that anyone saying women must have natural births and be forced to breastfeed is bonkers.

I'm not sure why you're focusing so much on blogs. Do you consider this forum here on MN to be a feminist forum? I've certainly seen plenty of women here say women have the right to epidurals etc.

I agree that the discourse you're talking about is problematic but I think it is essentially an activist/elite discourse that does not necessarily reflect the feelings of feminists generally.

I think if you were to approach this from a different direction, and look at women who do support pain relief, etc., you would find that many of them are feminists and support it for feminist reasons. Like the Skeptical OB -- this is a good recent column:

It kind of addresses your question of why people don't talk about both sides. These are not just medical issues but ideological issues, and thus they invoke questions of identity and agency and meaning. Also, at a cynical level, some people will advocate certain positions for attention or to gain relevance or funding.

Like the filmmaker, I've also done a lot of research in norms/ideology/propaganda and I find it so depressing that women's health is an ideological battleground, in a way that men generally don't have to deal with.

Basically I agree with your stance, just don't write off all of us American feminists because of what a few blogs say.


How are you defining 'a feminist'?

If you only consider feminists to be people who write on feminist blogs and have names like feministbreeder or have careers specifically defined by feminism, then yes, you may only find a narrow viewpoint among them.

But that is not a representative discourse. Or rather, it is representative of one current in feminist thought.

You are not likely to find organised groups fighting against their positions, because if you disagree with them, you are already sort of subsumed in mainstream practice, so there's no need. You won't find group blogs dedicated to arguing with them, you are more likely to find individuals like the Skeptical OB rejecting their arguments.

I'm pretty sure she's a feminist btw so there's your one link.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 15:45:51


That is one of my very favourite blogs smile She is the sole voice of reason on the internet.

I am personally relieved to hear your opinion on women's healthcare and am pleased to announce that it is very similar to mine.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 15:50:15

OP I think you'll find this paper interesting as a feminist view of medicalised vs natural childbirth - from page 258 . It supports and explains a feminist argument (that I think every right-minded person would agree with) of medicalised birthing and rights.

I understand what you're saying but it seems that you are really annoyed at some women supporting natural birth for feminist reasons. This does not mean there is a feminist argument or movement trying to deny anyone their rights during childbirth - which seems to be the conclusion you are jumping to.

As a side note - the "ignorant American" comment in your OP further suggests you are making bold assumptions that are not fully grounded once dissected.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 16:08:51


You are slightly in denial. The traditional feminist agenda has supported exclusively natural birth, and some of the ramifications of that have been less than ideal. I have no issue with anyone supporting natural birth, but if you call yourself a feminist you have to support all choices- and those include epidurals and c-sections.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 16:39:45

Once again - supporting one thing does not equate denying the right to another.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 16:46:34


You are missing the point. Firstly, there are feminists who do openly state that the right to the other options is invalid (see the examples I have given you).

Secondly, promoting only one choice and pretending the other doesn't exist is harmful and inadequate. What if I solely promoted the rights of working mothers and completely neglected the challenges faced by SAHM? What kind of a feminist would I be then? A rubbish kind.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 17:09:51

I'm not "in denial" nor am I missing your point.

The overwhelming majority of women, and medical professionals, agree that a woman should have the right to pain relief if she wants it - including you, me and everyone else on this thread and also everyone I've ever discussed birthing with in my entire life - feminists as non-feminists.

As a pregnant feminist who has done a lot of research into the area recently, I have not read of seen anything that suggests using pain relief during birth doesn't exist as you are saying is the case.

I do think that you are leaping to a conclusion that any feminist supporting and promoting natural wants to remove the rights of women who want pain relief, which is absolutely incorrect.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:21:14

Can you find a link to Naomi Wolf's views OP? I find some of her recent views (especially re Assange) problematic. But your characterisation isn't what I recall her position being on sections so am interested to read.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 17:41:51


Read her book entitled "Misconceptions".

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:45:51

Where in the book? I haven't read it for years but my recollection is of her being against enforced and unnecessary medicalisation, not choice. I can dig the book out tomorrow but I'd like to know where to start looking as I don't much want to re-read the whole thing right now.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 17:49:50


And I do think that you are being deliberately obtuse by missing the simple point that by supporting choices on only one side of the spectrum, some feminists are inadvertently doing more harm than good.

Like I have said repeatedly, there is nothing wrong with promoting natural birth. But promoting only natural birth is more harmful than beneficial.

While these women might not all be saying that other women should be denied pain relief or elective caesarians, I don't see them passionately defending this choice the way they defend VBAC and home birth.

In other words, they don't think that the rights of women who want to choose a c-section or epidural are worth fighting for.

You seem to think that the feminists you have met are representative of all feminist views.

The purpose of this thread wasn't to argue or start a one-upmanship.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 17:53:28


You will have to make that effort yourself. I cannot give you a page number and exact line, as I myself read the book a couple months ago and do not have the chapters imprinted in my memory.

I do recall reading the view I have described earlier.

It's perfectly acceptable that she is against forced procedures (who wouldn't be), but like most feminist writers she has assumed that women who choose caesarians voluntarily don't exist. The same can be said about Jessica Valenti who wrote "Why Have Kids?". It's an excellent book otherwise, but she hasn't anywhere acknowledged the rights of women to demand pain relief and elective caesarians.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 17:59:19

No need to be rude.

I think if you are going to assert that someone holds a surprising opinion you should be able to back it up with at least a chapter reference. I am perfectly willing to believe she says that somewhere. But equally that that might not be an accurate recollection. I am not going to take it as read.

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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.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:42:36

Here is another issue I have.

On every feminist or birthing website, there is a section called "the rights of birthing women". Nowhere do those rights ever include demanding an epidural or an elective c-section. It's always about midwives and refusing pain relief.

Another example-

ICAN ( a strong feminist birthing organisation ) responding to the trend of maternal request c-sections and lamenting that they are being allowed by some doctors.

ICAN has only ever promoted VBACs and has never fought the corner for women who are denied repeat elective c-sections.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 19:44:48

Xpost with your second link.

But why don't you contact famous feminists to ask them as they may blog or write more about the issue if they are fit.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:46:00


I don't understand why you are deliberately choosing to not see what is obvious.
The link to anthrodoula's blog

has a post about how epidurals and elective caesarians are not feminist. Did you bother to read the post or did you just read her introduction?

I have now given you three more links, so please read them before giving me your opinion.

It's difficult to measure access in the US because it differs so much by state, poverty levels, rural/urban and according to whether you have insurance.

I'm not saying in the US you can just rock up to an OB and she'll give you a section no problem. But many section situations are borderline and it seems like it's easier to fall on the section side of that border in the US.

For example, I had 3 scans in the last trimester showing a huge baby. In the US the recommendation is to offer a section and this means insurance will usually have to pay for it (this is my understanding anyway). There is no such guideline in the UK. I would also be very surprised if there is a maternity hospital in the US that does not offer epidurals full stop.

But my point really is that if you support natural childbirth and think too many women are having epidurals -- because I think more than half of women in the US do have them -- then you are not going to fight for improved access to them. Your starting point is that there are too many already.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:47:41

I have Bunnylion. I don't think they have yet taken me up on that suggestion.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:49:44


I am alarmed by your recent post. Why would any feminist think that too many women are having epidurals and start a campaign based on that? shock Why fight for reduced access to pain relief?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 19:51:17

"I'm not saying in the US you can just rock up to an OB and she'll give you a section no problem."

Exactly my point.

So how many feminists in America do you see who are campaigning to make access to elective caesarians easier? Let me answer- none.

I do deny that 'famous' feminists have influence -- or rather, I think their influence is quite small really. Most women in the US don't even want to self-identify as feminists, that's how removed their agenda is.

I think a lot of these trends are due to broader issues in society and gender politics.

If you want to explain why an upper middle class woman in Berkeley is horrified by the idea of an epidural you'd do far better to look at social network theory than the feminist agenda.


Well I don't understand why any feminists would be against epidurals personally but apparently they are. Isn't that what you're saying? I'm just trying to explain why from their point of view they wouldn't want to fight for women to have them.

The issue of electives is always going to be more complicated in the US because somebody has to pay for them directly. It's a non-starter issue. No one is going to waste political capital fighting for it.

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 20:05:44

I honestly don't think you are interested in anyone's opinion so I will stop giving mine now.

I read your links. I don't agree with you.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 20:11:14


Well I don't understand why any feminists would be against epidurals personally but apparently they are.

Thank you for finally admitting that. Can we now agree that they are wrong?

The issue of electives is always going to be more complicated in the US because somebody has to pay for them directly. It's a non-starter issue. No one is going to waste political capital fighting for it.

They can waste political capital fighting for their right to get Catholic tax payers to pay for abortion, but they can't fight for the right to elective caesarians? Doesn't make any sense to me.

Why should tax payers then pay for tubal ligation or birth control or abortions or any other procedure that isn't 100% medically necessary?

If you want to explain why an upper middle class woman in Berkeley is horrified by the idea of an epidural you'd do far better to look at social network theory than the feminist agenda.

Interesting point.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 20:13:13


I read your links. I don't agree with you.

Then you probably agree with the people who wrote those links and actually agree with them and their agenda (I suspected that from the onset).

Bunnylion Sun 11-Aug-13 20:20:04

Another one of your gigantic jumps in logic. No, I think all women should be able to choose how they give birth - including c-section and epidurals. How you managed to hear the opposite from my posts I have no idea.

You've been on the defensive from the off and seem to be spoiling for a fight - totally unnecessarily.

In terms of why fight for one thing and not another -- they are really completely different issues with different constituencies and histories and social factors. I could give a big explanation but jesus it would take forever!

I'm not sure I understand your point about Catholic taxpayers. What feminists are arguing is that organisations and health care providers should not be allowed to opt out of federally mandated health coverage based on religion. Again, that is a big issue that is not just about reproductive rights but also ties into important and contested issues within the US about religion and state.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 20:35:33

I am very pro choice and also atheist, so let me clarify. I agree that abortion should be available free for those who can't afford it and if that bothers somebody's religious principles then I don't really care.

My point was, that if these feminists are avoiding supporting elective c-sections on the basis of being controversial then I call bullshit on that argument based on the passionate campaign they have fought for abortion rights.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 11-Aug-13 20:43:08


I'm UK based but I'd be surprised if any doula, whatever her location or politics would be campaigning for elective c-sections and increased medical intervention. it's against the raison d'être, isn't it?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 20:46:18


But my question is, is it then fair for those doulas to call themselves feminists if they can't support all birthing choices without a bias?

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 11-Aug-13 20:54:00

Well, if I were a doula and a prospective client came and said she wanted an ELCS, I might suggest that she didn't really need my services.

It's fair for Sheryl Sandberg to call herself a feminist when she focusses most of her attention on working women. If she actively attacked SAHMs, then that would not be a feminist act. Isn't this similar?

TheDoctrineOfAllan Sun 11-Aug-13 21:01:00

I mean, isn't focussing on one set of choices rather than another similar?

I'm not saying they're avoiding it because it's controversial, but because there's just so little likelihood that it will go anywhere.

On abortion, there is a large and mobilised community to work with to fight for abortion rights. There is PAC money for lobbying. There are also activist groups to fight for better health options for the poor. These are all things they can tap into. And, there are many people like you (and me) who are pro-choice and non-religious, who will also care about this because of the religion/state issues.

None of this exists for elective sections. It would be harder to get any traction going. And what exactly are you fighting for? That insurance companies should have to cover them? It's very hard for the federal government to mandate anything to the insurance companies, especially given insurance lobbyists. That the government programs should pay for them? Difficult in an age of austerity.

I'm not saying it's not a worthy thing to support, but worthiness is not enough. It's always about the politics.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 21:17:54

Actually, my doula was very pro-supporting women who wanted a natural birth. She was also very pro supporting women who wanted an elective section (though there are practical issues with that if they want their partner in surgery as most hospitals only allow one person in theatre so it can be mostly pre and post support). I'm fairly sure she would identify as a feminist.

Second, no feminist has to do everything. You can focus on pro-choice campaigning and not campaign directly on support for single parents (which can be two aspects of the same issue for some women).

Thirdly, I'm home now. I've looked at Woolf. You have said she has gone on record as saying electives shouldn't be allowed and said that is in Misconceptions. You've said she loathes the procedure. You've said she thinks all interventions are the work of the devil. I am afraid that if you think her book says that then your own feelings on the issue must be skewing how you read her. Some quotes and comments (from a quick skim using the index):

-"As women we should have an inalienable right to choose how we give birth. But we can only make that choice when we are empowered by the facts". This does come at the end of a section on women being pushed into 'emergency' sections. But that's about money and litigation risk and protocols and lots of things where she is talking about care not being women centred, and about under-explaining to women the nature of the surgery, not about evils of the procedure.

-Here (if my link works) is her most negative section I could find on elective sections. But she's not saying that they shouldn't be allowed. Yes, I will admit it's a bit dismissive of elective sections, but there is a world of difference between not pushing one particular procedure and hating it, considering it evil and saying it shouldn't be allowed.

- She stages a pretty aggressive take down of what she considers the extreme wing of the natural childbirth movement.

-One of the major issues in her manifesto is to give women full information about her right to accept or refuse any treatment or procedure after the risk and benefit has been explained to her.

No, she isn't fighting your corner. She's not staging a campaign for elective sections. She is arguing against a birthing system in US where many women who want to give birth naturally are prevented from and not supported to do so. It's her personal journey (to two emergency sections). It doesn't cover all bases, but that doesn't make it an invalid point of view.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:21:02


Actually, it is very possible for federal governments to mandate insurance companies to do certain things. Such as Obamacare mandating that women with prior c-sections be given coverage, people with pre-determined conditions cannot now be refused coverage, and women cannot be charged more than men for insurance.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 21:30:00

I still don't get why you want to debate the detail of US views on a UK board. Surely you aren't going to get lots of people with detailed, location specific, comments to make? They are mostly going to be UK slanted.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:36:39


Let me put it this way- why aren't any feminists fighting for the right to choose c-sections? No, they don't all have to do it, but isn't it disappointing that there isn't even one?

Why are they all so dismissive of it?

You can interpret Naomi how you like, but the fact remains that she is dismissive of the choice and is rather patronising of women who make that choice. She assumes that we are all misinformed and "too posh to push", and is convinced that if we were "educated" we would choose differently.

I am not saying that her POV about her own births is invalid, but that doesn't mean that her agenda is necessarily helping all women.

I appreciate why the majority of the feminist literature focuses on the right to have a natural birth, but that doesn't justify them dismissing women who want to choose differently.

The trauma faced by a woman forced into a vaginal birth is ignored by most of the existing feminist literature. They only focus on women forced into c-sections.

On the subject of informed consent-why aren't Naomi and the others equally concerned about women not being given full information about vaginal birth?

There are so many FTMs who have no idea about the kind of damage that a VB can do to the pelvic floor and realise it much later, only to wish that they had had a c-section instead.

I'm all for informed decisions, but I would argue that many women don't know about the real risks of a VB either.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:39:01


Many doulas support women who have to have c-sections as well. As they should.

I wouldn't say it's very possible. Obamacare was a nightmare to get passed. The insurance lobby in the US is extremely powerful.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 21:44:09

So you've moved from saying she has gone on record as saying electives shouldn't be allowed to she is dismissive of the choice. Wow, that's quite a re-interpretation of her views. She also isn't assuming women who want electives are 'too posh to push'.

You seem very fond of sweeping and dramatic statements, when the reality is rather more mundane. NW is pro-natural birth. Fine. We aren' the Borg.

You've been given links above to 'one' person pushing for elective/epidural rights haven't you?

Also, and I'll say it again, are UK feminists really the best people to ask about the very jurisdiction specific issue of the availability and funding of electives. Certainly in the UK things are moving in the right direction there -see the recent change in NICE guidelines.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:46:32


Fine. It's difficult, but possible.

I don't see what you are gaining by nitpicking on largely irrelevant details.

If we are all feminists on this board, then the purpose isn't to poke holes in each other's arguments but to try an have a healthy discussion about why feminism doesn't take a more comprehensive approach to childbirth choices.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 21:48:50

Hang on, going back to your point about doulas.

But my question is, is it then fair for those doulas to call themselves feminists if they can't support all birthing choices without a bias?

Why not? Feminists can choose to personally support women who have decided to continue unplanned pregnancies in difficult circumstances. It doesn't mean that you don't recognise the rights of other women to terminate. Or feminists can choose to personally support women who wish to abort and not women who continue their pregnancies.

A decision about how you personally want to spend your time isn't saying that the other decision is wrong, just that it isn't your thing to work with it. As you say, lots of doulas do both.

Some do hypnotherapy births or focus on homeopathy. Just means that that is there thing.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 21:49:22

*their thing.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:54:26


No, you said she is dismissive and I agreed with you. I still recall reading in that book that she was disappointed that elective caesarians are allowed. Many other prominent feminist websites have said the same (such as ourbodiesourselves and ICAN). If you are disappointed that something is allowed, doesn't that mean that you would be happier if it wasn't allowed? And doesn't that infringe on the rights of other women to choose differently?

Simply because we are in the Uk doesn't mean that we can't have more global discussions about feminist issues. Especially when what happens in the US impacts the rest of the world quite heavily.

I'm not nitpicking. You're complaining that feminists aren't running a campaign pushing for elective sections. I'm explaining to you why, even if they were inclined to support such a thing, they wouldn't do it, because it would be politically infeasible.

You say you want to discuss why 'feminism' isn't taking a more comprehensive approach. Well, political infeasibility is a big part of that.

The kinds of feminists you're talking about are not apolitical creatures.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:56:49


Did you read what I said? I said it's fine to focus your energies on one choice as long as you aren't dismissive of other ones.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 21:58:28


Why do you think that a home birth and VBAC campaign is feasible but an elective c-section campaign is not?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:03:26


I mean, there is a feminist campaign in the USA to get insurance to pay for home births and midwives.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:06:08

Due to the efforts of feminists in the USA, the ACOG has been forced to mandate that women cannot be denied VBACs.

I think that is excellent, but it also makes me wonder why they cannot have a similar guideline for epidurals and elective c-sections.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 22:07:59

No, I am sorry. You don't get to say NW has gone on record saying electives shouldn't be allowed, vaguely patronise me about getting the book from the library if I don't recall the book saying that, and then (when I've gone to the trouble of getting the book and finding the bits I can) claim it says something totally different. Maybe it does. But find it and quote it.

You have back pedalled massively on what you claim NW has said.

I can't quite believe I'm defending Woolf to this extent as she really has been quite off with the fairies recently as far as I'm concerned on a lot of issues. But I don't like people saying someone says something without being able to back that up, or not being direct about what writers actually say in their books.

Of course we can discuss worldwide issues. But you are talking about very jurisdiction specific nuances about birthing and you're making very broad brush assertions about what goes on in the US that UK people can't answer in the same way.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:12:28


I have not backpedalled on anything NW has said and I cannot fathom why you are so defensive about an opinion which you claim doesn't match with your own anyway.

By saying that she is disappointed that elective caesarians are allowed (something she has stated on the page that you provided a link to), she is essentially saying that she would be happier if they wouldn't be allowed. Which is an indirect attack on the choices of women like myself.

By dismissing a choice simply because it is different from her own, she isn't helping the larger feminist cause and that is my grouse against her.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:14:39

Instead of obsessing over NW (who has never really been the most stellar example of feminism anyway), why don't we focus on the mainstream feminist websites like ourbodiesourselves and ICAN? I am concerned about their lack of support for elective caesarians and pain relief and I think that their zealous focus on natural birth sets many women up for disappointment.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 22:22:21

Where does it say, on that page, that she is disappointed? My quotes are from your earlier posts - you've toned down your representation of her views again and again as I've actually had the book in front of me.

I'm not defensive about her views. I am defensive about you misquoting and holding her out as a high profile feminist who has an anti-elective agenda backed up with wild generalisations about what her books say. Because I like people to quote their sources if they cite them, and do it accurately.

I know nothing about US sites on birth. But then I'm British. I know NICE guidelines say I should be agreed an elective (with some caveats). Also, since you massively misquoted NW, how do I know you aren't mis quoting those sites without trawling a lot of stuff not relevant to most UK women?

I was going to link to a past thread about birth rights on feminism. But I can see you were on it too. And we all agreed in maternal choice.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:36:13


I have given links to all the sites I have quoted. You can visit them yourself and decide if I've misquoted them.

My intention was never to only discuss things relevant to UK women- that should have been obvious from the onset.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:39:02


She may not have an outright anti-elective agenda (according to you) but you will at least agree that she has an obvious anti-caesarian agenda. That harms women like myself who have wanted to choose caesarians and were denied.

To get this thread back on track, my point was that there are no feminists fighting for the rights of women like myself who want to choose elective caesarians and epidurals and I find that disappointing.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 11-Aug-13 22:47:49

No, I don't agree. She has an anti-being-pushed-into-section agenda. It's different. And I don't think that harms other choices.

My point about your misquoting NW is that you have linked to massive sites that you say are anti-section. If you misquote one person again and again, how do I know you don't misquote others without spending hours trawling those massive sites? People need to be able to rely on what you say if they are going to join a discussion. You stated things as facts that you have provided no evidence for and seem to be directly contradicted by the quotes and summaries I gave.

I know you don't want to talk about UK relevance only. You want to talk about the US. My question is still why you think UK feminists will want to focus on US birth culture as to elective sections when our own culture is moving in a different direction from the one you quote there. Surely your call for more feminists campaigning for elective sections in the US would be better taken up by US feminists?

Why aren't there feminists campaigning for elective sections? Well, maybe feminist were involved in what NICE decided. Birthrights is campaigning on all aspects of human rights in childbirth. Feminists on here have agreed with those rights.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Sun 11-Aug-13 22:49:24

Are there any countries, globally, that don't have caveats around access to elective c sections?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 22:56:37


I don't agree. I think she is anti-caesarain in general and I do think that indirectly that does harm other choices.

It is actually a well-known fact that ICAN and ourbodies are anti-caesarians. Just like you didn't take my word for NW, don't take my word for this either and see for yourself. You don't need to see the whole website, just a skim through the pages I linked to will be enough.

My question is still why you think UK feminists will want to focus on US birth culture as to elective sections when our own culture is moving in a different direction from the one you quote there.

I am not of the opinion that feminists should only care about their own country and their own little world. i prefer a more global perspective on things and I think that the rights of women everywhere concern me.

If you think this thread is irrelevant, then don't participate in it. But it's a bit odd to have an argument with an OP about why she started a thread and how silly it is.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 23:00:00


Yes. Italy, India, China, Greece and a few other countries (can't exactly recall which ones) seem to have liberal views (so far) on women choosing their own mode of delivery. There are no specific guidelines around a c-section and women are left to make these decisions with their healthcare providers.

Your question is very interesting in that it illustrates my point. Most countries have restricted access to electives and that is something that rarely gets taken up by the global feminist community.

That is really what I am concerned about and I don't understand why that is disturbing people so much.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Sun 11-Aug-13 23:20:06

I'm coming from the perspective that all countries will have some things they support within whatever healthcare system they have, and some they don't. So I'd expect every western country to provide antibiotics without "question" but not all to provide, say, anti-smoking drug treatment.

By definition, elective caesereans are, um, elective, so I'm not surprised if many countries restrict them, on cost grounds and/or medical outcome grounds.

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 23:22:52

Then we shouldn't be concerned that countries are restricting abortions, birth control and tubal ligations (all elective) on cost and/or religious grounds either.

Why is one a cause of concern and not the other?

The point I am making is that if we believe in a woman's right to autonomy over her body and if we agree that it extends to childbirth, then how can we exclude epidurals and caesarians from that list of choices?

PeaceAndHope Sun 11-Aug-13 23:23:47

And how can any feminist be Ok with the fact that cost-cutting might cause some woman to have a traumatic birth experience?

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Mon 12-Aug-13 07:32:51

I never mentioned religion.

From a cost perspective, both birth control and abortions are cheaper than the medical treatment required around birth and the cost to society of "extra" children (in the UK, child benefit for example).

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Mon 12-Aug-13 07:39:54

Additionally, in the UK a significant proportion of abortions are paid for personally. In the UK, birth control can be obtained for free but I'm sure other countries have an element of charge for this.

PeaceAndHope Mon 12-Aug-13 19:58:23


I don't really know what argument you have tried to make overall in this thread.

Are you simply sharing trivia or are you saying that it's actually OK to get women to pay for abortions personally?

The point that I was making is that American feminists have argued for the right of women to have abortions free of cost. They have argued for the right of women to have their home births and VBACs (which can cost quite a bit, especially if things go wrong) to be paid for by insurance.

Given the above, I don't see why an argument to get insurance to pay for elective caesarian sections would be so undoable and unreasonable.

I keep coming back to the same point- there isn't a single influential, prominent feminist (especially in the USA) who is arguing for the rights of women to have elective caesarian sections or a more medicalised childbirth experience if that is what they want.

Recently, the Mayor of NYC announced that women wouldn't be able to formula feed their newborns in New York hospitals without there being a medical reason for it. Instead of being outraged that the rights of women to not breastfeed were being attacked, feminists celebrated this as some sort of breastfeeding victory.

(Mayor Bloomberg of New York had announced that women who want to formula feed for non-medical reasons will no longer be given formula by the hospital. If they still refused to breastfeed, then whether they would be given formula or not would depend on the discretion of the hospital staff who have to account for every bottle of formula given out in their facility. Since US health and safety laws don't allow women to bring in their own formula into the hospital, this does put formula feeding moms in quite a pickle)

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Mon 12-Aug-13 21:37:39

I was trying to enlarge on my point about elective procedures in different healthcare systems, but was also trying to pack up for a day out, so was a bit disjointed.

I'm coming from a feminist perspective and a health economics perspective, I suppose. It's hard to comment knowledgeably, OP, because healthcare systems are so different in different countries. So I can only speak with any depth of knowledge about the UK.

In a perfect world, every woman would access all the child-related choices freely (including free, unlimited IVF, free birth control, free abortions, free elective caesareans, free sterilisation etc).

But I know that free unlimited IVF, say, would leave less money available for some other treatment and that some other person would be in pain (physical or mental) because of that.

So I can understand if a particular country (or other payer) looks at the costs and the medical outcomes of elective caesareans and places caveats on them. The same kind of framework is applied to eg new drugs being introduced.

Reading the NICE guidelines, it seems the plan in the UK is, to paraphrase, to talk women out of ELCS where possible but not to deny if that's not possible.

It looks like a sensible policy to me. But looking at the list of influencers - medical professionals, birth/parenting associations and mothers - I don't think that high profile feminists influenced it, though I could be wrong.

I assume that ACOG's opinion in the US is taken seriously, is that right? Their current guidance doesn't recommend but also doesn't preclude ELCS, how does that interact with what insurance companies do?
ACOG 2013

Turning back to your OP, I agree with you that women negatively judging women who choose epidurals or elective caesareans isn't a feminist act. But I'm not sure that feminists are better placed than, say, doctors, to lead any campaign on this issue, as it is so much about the balance of physical risks and possible trauma.

(UK hospitals don't give out formula either but you can bring your own in. That sounds unworkable if you can't sad)

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Mon 12-Aug-13 21:46:51

Do you have a link on the NYC thing Peace? I am interested to read, but when I have just Googled I am finding articles from last year which said that formula would have to kept locked up like medication and all other medical equipment and signed out at the mother's specific request. I don't agree with the bit I've found about a mandatory lecture, but that's not the same as discretion and denying mothers an option to formula feed their baby, so I'm interested to see if it has changed in the last year?

US hospitals have a very formula based culture where newborns are often kept away from parents, given formula in the night as routine unless you've stressed not, freebies are given out, etc. I can understand trying to balance that, though of course maternal choice should and must be the final governing point.

PeaceAndHope Tue 13-Aug-13 00:15:07


What you've read is absolutely right. Formula will be locked up and there will be a mandatory lecture if women ask for it- even then it will be up to the HCP to decide whether to give it to her or not.

Do you want further links to the same story? Because it seems like you've read the right one.

The reason that this is equivalent to denying mothers formula is because in most USA hospitals, the health and safety guidelines state that outside food (including formula) is not allowed.

So if hospitals are restricting formula and keeping it under lock and key and women can't bring their own either- isn't it essentially denying them formula? Or at the very least making it rather difficult for them to be able to formula feed their newborn.

And shouldn't feminists be concerned about this?

I didn't even see them protesting the mandatory lecture.

PeaceAndHope Tue 13-Aug-13 00:18:12


Evidence that mainstream American feminists do not support caesarian on request.

Here we are then : a blog post from which states "We must clearly understand that real autonomy does not mean cesarean on request"

PeaceAndHope Tue 13-Aug-13 00:26:16


Yes, ACOG is taken quite seriously there. Unfortunately, their current guidelines are quite ambivalent when it comes to caesarians on request.

OTOH, their guidelines about VBACs are quite explicit. They state that it should be encouraged and allowed, even in case of unknown scars on the uterus (which might be vertical).

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Tue 13-Aug-13 07:35:30

Well, I strongly disagree with the idea of a lecture. That bit sounds awful. I didn't see anything in the stories I found about discretion in giving it out after the talk, so I'll leave that bit on one side for now.

But the keeping formula locked up and getting it signed out, no I'm not sure I do disagree with that. I'd have to know a lot more about how it was implemented and whether it was causing distress to mothers and babies. The US has a long and sad history of 'formula pushing' in hospitals, so I can see the need to redress the balance. I fully support every single woman's right to ff. But I also support every woman's right to bf and not to have efforts to establish bf-ing undermined by commercial enterprises (which is what has sadly happened a lot in the US) so it is a very difficult balance. I'd need to know a lot more about the implementation.

As I said, the lecture bit is horrid though.

PeaceAndHope Wed 14-Aug-13 00:19:49


If formula is locked up and handed out at the discretion of HCPs, they will try to stop mothers from accessing it. A woman should simply be able to say that she wants to ff, and have that decision accepted without needing permission or having to have an HCP sign off on it.

I also fail to see how this will help mothers who want to breastfeed. If you want to breastfeed, then do it. How will it help you to have access blocked to women who don't want to breastfeed?

Most importantly, the low breastfeeding rates in the USA is largely a media created myth. Around 75- 80% of first time moms leave the hospital exclusively breastfeeding their babies. That wouldn't happen if nurses were sneaking formula to them without anyone's knowledge.

Especially in New York, most mothers breastfeed their babies already. I fail to see the point of this exercise.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Wed 14-Aug-13 06:58:29

Peace, I read that post withtheextracts from the article as being concerned about the medical profession "gearing up" for more c-sections which would then be likely to lead to pressure on women to have c-sections. I read the phrase you highlighted as equivalent to "autonomy doesn't mean you have one choice promoted to you which is a c-section"

I didn't read any of it as anti-c-section, more as anti hospitals pushing sections for their own purposes.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Wed 14-Aug-13 07:47:17

Formula needing to be signed out doesn't automatically mean that HCPs will try to stop mothers accessing it. That is an assumptive leap.

I have said before that I don't think it's necessarily constructive for Uk feminists to have a detailed debate on US policies. Not because, as you've tried to characterise me, I only care about my country, but because we do not have as much access to the background information to inform our judgement. I've also said that I would need to understand implementation.

It was very clear that something needed to be done to support Bf-ing in US hospitals. It really isn't as simple as saying that availability and promotion of formula do not affect women who bf. That's like the old argument that formula adverts shoudl be allowed because they don't directly make someone decide to ff.

Even very recently women leaving private hospitals in many parts of the US were sent home with 'goodie bags' promoting certain brands of formula. Bf-ing rates in many parts of the US fall dramatically within 1-2 months. Part of this is short maternity leave, but another part is the undermining of bf-ing that routinely happens in the early days and the delayed effect of that.

You think formula should be freely available without any monitoring. That's your right. I do not. It doesn't make me a worse feminist. And it doesn't mean that I don't support a woman's right to choose what to do with her body. It just means that I think that those women who choose to bf should be supported and given a fair crack of the whip. So many women choose and want to bf but are undermined and find themselves feeding their baby in a way that they didn't choose. Sometimes that is inevitable. Often it isn't.

PeaceAndHope Thu 15-Aug-13 03:41:38


Formula needing to be signed off means that unless the HCP agrees, the woman cannot have access to formula. Which means that the power lies with the HCP and not the woman. Maybe some HCPs will agree, while others won't. I'm not making an assumptive leap, I am simply stating a fact. Many HCPs are breastfeeding zealots and can keep women from accessing formula if they are given this level of control.

I agree that women who breastfeed should be supported. But the way to do that is by making lactation consultants and further support available for breastfeeding moms, not by restricting access to formula for those who don't even want to breastfeed in the first place.

Currently, I only see campaigns to support breastfeeding- baby friendly hospital initiatives, initiatives to make public spaces friendly for breastfeeding mums, etc. And they seem to be working very well! Breastfeeding rates are increasing and most hospitals have lactation consultants now.
How about some initiatives to ensure that women who want to formula feed are not restricted or shamed?

I formula fed. I had strange people come up to me and say things like"breast is best, you know" or give me disapproving looks.

I was forced to breastfeed my first child in hospital (even though I did not want to) because the midwife didn't agree with formula feeding and I was too tired and too much in pain to argue. That's how easy it is for them to deny access to women who have just given birth and are tired and vulnerable.

I don't see how it would have affected any other woman if I had just been given the space to feed my baby formula like I had wanted to.

I am not asking for free formula samples to be handed out to everyone. I am simply saying that if I ask for formula I should either be given some without question or at the very least be allowed to bring my own. Unfortunately, the new rules in NYC don't leave room for this to happen.


You and I must have read different articles, because that isn't how I interpreted it all. I think most people will be against c-sections being forced on women, but what has that got to do with women who choose them?? I take great offence to the fact that this woman who calls herself a feminist just insulted the choice of so many women by saying that it wasn't real autonomy.

The feminist debate needs to widen it's perspective when it comes to childbirth and include the rights of women like myself who choose options other than a natural birth or breastfeeding for 2 years.

Women who want to have epidurals, caesarians or women who want to formula feed are being as restricted as women who prefer a more natural approach. Yet, it is the rights of only one group of women that get discussed and supported. I am simply questioning this disparity.

I am not attacking feminism or feminists (I am one myself), so there is no need to make excuses for them or become defensive.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 15-Aug-13 08:00:49

I think we are going round in circles here, so there probably isn't much point continuing, though it is has been an interesting discussion.

I don't agree that signing out will mean 'zealots' deny woman. I am sorry for your bad experience. But women have (sadly) bad experiences in all directions. Just as many are pressured in the other direction.

I simply don't accept your premise that this initiative isn't a support for bf, though it has been a long time since I read all the stats on this type of thing (though I am sure people on bf/ff would have them)

I hear people say again and again that ff mums are shamed or subject to negative comments. Then I see again and again comments from bf mums saying the same about their choice. The reality is that ff is the normal way to feed your baby in this country and in the US (initiation rates are high, but continuation plummets) and I think both groups sadly have negative comments, just like any choice you make as a mother. The right to judge mothering is a whole other issue an done which sadly applies across the board.

I think that supporting any mother to make her own choices is a feminist issue. I don't think that that means making formula arrangement the way you would prefer.

TheDoctrineOfJetlag Thu 15-Aug-13 08:24:15

I am sorry that midwife acted that way and that people came up and questioned your feeding choices. That is crap.

I think we must interpret things differently as I interpreted your OP with its mention of self proclaimed "feminists" as far more attack-like than the blog post just discussed.

HCPs will always put together guidelines based on health outcomes. If, statistically (which I think is the case), vaginal birth has fewer "side effects" on a population level than c-sections, then it would be unHippocratic not to "recommend" that as the first line of treatment. As the outcomes are not hugely different and patient autonomy has an impact on those outcomes, patient choice should be a much bigger consideration in birth than in, say, prescribing antibiotics, but the two options will never be completely equal to a HCP.

PeaceAndHope Thu 15-Aug-13 17:04:54


The reality is that formula is the normal way to feed a baby in this country (or in the US)

Absolutely untrue. 75-80% of new mothers breastfeed their babies in UK and USA. Every ante-natal class and every HCP drills it into every pregnant woman that breast is best. Formula is far from being viewed as "normal".

Yes, it is viewed as an option and I see nothing wrong with that at all.It doesn't mean that women who prefer breastfeeding are being harmed in any way at all.

I don't agree that signing out will mean 'zealots' deny woman.

REALLY? You don't agree that some people have a pro-breastfeeding bias? And if the decision is left up to them, you don't think that they will make it hard for women to access formula? They're already doing that! There is so much pressure on hospitals to become 'baby friendly' that they are trying by hook or by crook to make sure that every new mother breastfeeds whether she wants to or not.

I think that supporting any mother to make her own choices is a feminist issue. I don't think that that means making formula arrangement the way you would prefer.

That makes absolutely no sense because it's a self-contradictory statement. If you restrict access to formula, then it will mean that women who want to formula feed are not supported in their choice. Why is that so hard for you to comprehend?

As a formula feeding mum, I didn't want to have to explain my decision to every HCP and wait with insecurity while they decided whether or not they wanted to sign some off for me. That is outrageous. How is that supporting a choice, please explain this to me??

I simply don't accept your premise that this initiative isn't a support for bf, though it has been a long time since I read all the stats on this type of thing

Please explain to me how it will help breastfeeding moms to have formula restricted for women who don't want to breastfeed in the first place. I am most curious to know your reasoning behind this.

PeaceAndHope Thu 15-Aug-13 17:09:42


Firstly, I have no issue with a VB being recommended. I never really said that it was wrong to do that. I am not even suggesting that HCP be the ones to offer caesarians randomly. I simply want them to respect the informed choice of a woman who asks for it and so far they aren't doing that across the board in any country.

Secondly, which mode of delivery has more side effects often depends on the person. There are women who had staph infections in caesarian incisions and then there are also women who had incontinence and colostomies following a vaginal birth. The issue is that the risks of a caesarian are discussed much more openly than those of a VB.

And yes, my OP was an attack. I don't deny it. I am sick of the bias that feminism has against the choices I made as a mother.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 15-Aug-13 17:20:24

Those rates are early days rates of bf. The fact is that long term, most babies are ff.

As for the rest, I think we are going round in circles, so although I disagree I am not sure it helps to keep discussing it.

5madthings Thu 15-Aug-13 17:24:19

sorry but most mothers dont bfeed in the uk. yes a lot of them start to but within a week the number declines hugely and by six weeks the vast majority of babies are bottlefed. as far as i know that is similar in the us.

yes women should have the right to c sections on request but thete is a huge issue of childbiryh becoming ovet medicalised and at the moment campaigns are focusing on that.

of course you are welcome to set up a campaign for c sections on request but i guess its slightly trickier in the us with insurance etc and they have othet isdues like some if the worst rates for maternal and infant death in developed countries. and the fact that the right to abortion is being steadily eroded in many states in america.

PeaceAndHope Thu 15-Aug-13 19:21:24


The fact that you have not answered even one of my questions directly is making me think that you may well be a closet lactivist who agrees with the idea of formula being restricted.

We are not going around in circles, you are simply evading the topic. What don't you agree with?

PeaceAndHope Thu 15-Aug-13 19:33:29


What happens to breastfeeding rates after mothers are discharged from the hospital is really down to the support that women get post-natally and from their families.

The solution is to encourage better post-natal care (instead of the token 6 weeks check) and to educate families in ways to support breastfeeding mums. Making work-places friendly for breastfeeding mums is another issue that requires attention.

I don't see what we are accomplishing by restricting formula. The vast majority of women want to breastfeed (as evidenced by the high initiation rates) and the focus should be on supporting them, not on restricting access for the minority of women who don't even want to breastfeed. That's all I'm trying to say.

My sister couldn't breastfeed because she didn't have enough post-natal support. When I was denied my choice to formula feed in the hospital, guess what? It didn't help her in the slightest. Why? Because the two are unrelated.

And there are women who have started small scale campaigns for c-sections and epidurals on request, but for such campaigns to be successful they need the attention of people with more influence. The mainstream and prominent activists choose to focus only on the right to a natural birth.

I personally didn't feel that childbirth was overmedicalized where I gave birth. They tried their best not to induce me until I got to 42 weeks, even though the baby was measuring very big for dates and I had excruciating SPD. Then they did all they could to stop me from getting an epidural. Then they did everything possible to force me to breastfeed. I didn't even have fetal monitoring even though I would have actually wanted it.

Maybe in the USA childbirth is not really 'natural' (although we all have our definitions of natural) but in the UK at least, I feel that natural birth and breastfeeding are being preferred and encouraged quite a lot.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Thu 15-Aug-13 19:35:37

I haven't answered your questions because you are not listening to anything anyone on this thread says, so I see no point. It's not a discussion, it's you lecturing people.

And you are often (either intentionally due to the passion of your argument or unintentionally) misquoting statistics and information - like NW and bf-ing stats.

I also think, quite frankly, that you have tipped the balance to just being rude and passive aggressive towards me. So I really don't see much benefit. If I were talking to you in RL, I'd reserve the right to excuse myself now, so it's what I'm doing here.

PeaceAndHope Fri 16-Aug-13 01:53:14


Which stats have I misquoted? I said that 75-80% of women now leave the hospital breastfeeding and I provided several links to prove the same.

You are claiming to support choice and then in the same breath you say that it is OK to restrict formula. How is that supporting choice?

I am very interested in a discussion, but you made it awfully difficult for me by nit-picking little details and focusing on the most irrelevant parts of the debate. You can therefore hardly blame me for being a bit put off.

When someone excuses themselves from a debate despite claiming to have the right answers,it usually means that they don't have the right answers. The fact that you haven't clarified your position and the fact that you haven't answered how restricting choice for formula feeding moms will help breastfeeding moms makes me think that you are caught out and you have nothing to say in support of your opinion.

GoshAnneGorilla Fri 16-Aug-13 02:09:41

O.P - I actually agree with a lot of your points, particularly any dubious attempts to dissuade mothers from formula feeding, especially as discouraging formula feeding doesn't equal improved bf support, it's just leaving mothers to flounder.

However, I don't think you're doing yourself any massive favours with how your coming across here.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Fri 16-Aug-13 06:55:00

You obviously have the right to think what you like. I remain of the view that continuing this discussion is not constructive.

PeaceAndHope Sat 24-Aug-13 20:57:11


I don't think I am coming across any better or worse than a lot of other posters who have been defensive and accusatory since the beginning.

I am appalled that there are "feminists" on mumsnet who agree with measures to restrict formula, epidurals and c-sections.

PeaceAndHope Sat 24-Aug-13 21:00:19


Continuing this discussion is not constructive for you because you are of the opinion that women should have choices as long as you agree with them. You clearly support the idea of restricting formula and childbirth choices. Since you know that it a terrible opinion to hold, you are simply avoiding the discussion. Not once have you denied my accusations. You've simply stated you don't want to continue the discussion.

Fine by me. I suspect I am a happier person not knowing your real opinions anyway.

AmandaPandtheTantrumofDoom Sat 24-Aug-13 21:40:58

I don't support those things and the fact that you've come back over a week after the last post to misrepresent me is a pretty good illustration of why I don't think that this is a constructive discussion.

I won't be posting on this thread again.

PeaceAndHope Sat 24-Aug-13 23:59:49

I've come back after a week because I've been out of the country and I have a life outside mumsnet. I fail to see what this has to do with the discussion.

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