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Is there a casual and callous attitude towards pregnancy and childbirth in society?

(385 Posts)
PeaceAndHope Tue 17-Jan-12 22:43:23

Hello everyonesmile

I'm sorry if I have posted my question in the wrong section but since I am a newbie I hope you'll all overlook it.

I have spent a lot of time recently wondering about the varied attitudes to childbirth and pregnancy and the lack of proper information regarding the process amongst most people.

I do believe that with the advancement of technology and better care we have been able to make the process a lot safer than it was in say the 1700s when the maternal mortality rate was 35%. However, it is my observation that people tend to take the whole thing for granted and assume all will be well because "women have been doing this for millenia".

I have keenly researched this subject and I have noticed that whenever I point out the risks associated with pregnancy and birth the reactions are those of disbelief and annoyance. I once brought up the possibility of fecal incontinence post childbirth and was admonished (by a man) to stop 'scaring people'.

I recently read a comment on a men's website that said "Pregnancy is the safest thing ever. It's not dangerous-to say that it is dangerous is misleading".
I certainly agree that the mortality rates in the developed world are rather low, but death is not the only thing that makes a process risky.

Pregnancy comes with superficial risks like permanent body changes to more serious ones such as permanent incontinence, diabetes, hypertension, uterine prolapse, obstetric fistulas (although these are rare), and even a permanent colostomy. Even in the developed world women still die of haemorrhage and aneurysms while giving birth.

Why is it that bringing this up tends to anger most people? Why do most people deny that these complications exist despite clear cut medical evidence that they do?

Is it traditionalism by virtue of which women are "meant" to bear children and therefore how can the process not be safe? Or is it just a paternalistic refusal to acknowledge that women do put themselves at risk for a series of complications (irrespective of whether they occur) when they have children?

I am not trying to imply that pregnancy and childbirth are horrible, evil things but I do believe that the attitude towards them is a bit casual and ignorant.

Your thoughts please?

Pastabee Sat 21-Jan-12 20:17:39

Welcome to Holland is very powerful isn't it? So sad of course but contains an important message for all expectant parents not just in terms of your own child but in terms of understanding how those not as fortunate as you feel.

I don't think it is wrong to face up to the fact that things don't always go in accordance with your plans and dreams. It can only help to know that you are not alone and that others feel the same.

tiggersreturn Sat 21-Jan-12 21:19:35

Are people casual ? Yes because it's a fact of life. It's more common for women to go through it than not. Are people callous ? Some are because their own or their partner's personal experience has been straightforward and they are unable to conceive that life can be different. Pointing this out means they have to confront the fact that either they are ignorant or not empathetic neither of which are great. Alternatively there are people who'd rather take an ostrich approach and don't want to know these things in advance.

When it comes to men's magazines not noted for their pro-feminist views it may also be an attempt to downplay the role women play which they can't.

There is a lot of emphasis on the natural side of childbirth and a whole movement on it but a response to "childbirth is natural " is "death by childbirth is also natural "

Ushy Sat 21-Jan-12 21:37:48

Peaceandhope Well done on raising this - you've started a really thought provoking discussion.

My take on this is that people have 'beliefs' about birth and beliefs as opposed to views are not easily shaken. Protagonists on both sides will produce evidence to support their ideas and dismiss research which does not support their beliefs as flawed.

There is a problem in this thoughhmm Those who think birth is a 'lovely, normal, experience’ are more likely to be attracted to midwifery, to being NCT teachers, doulas and independent midwives. The cautious pragmatists, with their preferences for epidurals, caesareans and horror at the yukkies of 4th degree tears and hypoxia don't much want to dicuss childbirth or think about it and would rather move on from the memory of it as soon as possible.

The consequence is that the 'birth is a normal life experience' group are much more vocal about birth and they predominate in maternity professions and the general childbirth scene.

Evidence? My own straw poll on Mumsnet. Look at how many threads and posts there are about home birth. Despite most women in the UK being offered homebirth, less than a few percent choose it.

Look, too, at the rise of private maternity care. 'Willingness to pay' is a believed to be one of the most accurate indicators of choice. What do women do when they 'buy' maternity care? They buy more epidurals, more caesareans and more doctors at their birth.

Could this be a possible explanation?

helsinkihelen Mon 30-Jan-12 19:58:36

I have not been able to follow this thread for the past week and a half as i was in hospital having DC2 :0)

However, my birth experience in short ... laboured for 10 hours with just a tens machine, only 3 cm dilated and in agony - then EMCS.

6 days later my partner got food poisoning and was admitted to hosp for 12 hours and put on a drip to rehydrate. He suffered with vomiting and diarrhea.

Last night we were at a cafe with friends. They asked me how long i was in labour for. I said 10 hours. Their response was 'that's not bad'. Conversation moved on. then they spent 10 minutes sympathising with my partner regarding how awful food poisoning is and what a poor thing he was.

This thread rang in my ears!

PamBeesly Mon 30-Jan-12 21:21:54

Congratulations on the new baby helsinkihelen

Hope you are recovering well and enjoying your baby smile

PeaceAndHope Fri 03-Feb-12 22:34:13

Congratulations on your new babysmile

Yes, the attitude of your friends sounds very apathetic and is exactly the kind of attitude I'm referring to.

I've been away on a business trip, and I want to share a story with all of you.
One of my colleagues has had a baby and he was asking the rest of us how he could help his wife cope with housework and the new baby. One of my male colleagues told him there was no need for her to have help.

He felt that since the women in his family had all gotten back to housework within two days of giving birth, there was no need for any woman to require any help or a prolonged period of recovery. I mentioned that in certain Asian cultures women are given 40 days of complete rest from household duties, so that they can recoup and focus on the little one. He said forty days was just crazy and it was disgusting to use the baby as an 'excuse to avoid work'.

I pointed out that most women take approximately 4-12 weeks to recover and that depression, exhaustion, uterine cramping, perineal pain, pain while going to the loo, weakness, sickness, pain in the tailbone etc. were all common post birth. I also explained that doing too much too soon could lead to issues such as bursting open the stitches, excess blood loss, fainting spells, anemia, hernias etc. To which he replied that I was talking about 'strange and uncommon' possibilities. I tried to explain that doctors themselves ask women to take it easy for about 6 weeks post birth. He thought it was insane to take six weeks to recover and that he had no patience for whiners.

Is it that difficult to understand that childbirth causes pain and injuries (no matter how it happens- naturally or via cesarian) which take time to heal? Is it perceived as so easy that six weeks are too long a recovery? It's shocking that some men actually their wives to just get back to normal on their own timeframe instead of patiently letting them heal.

shagmundfreud Fri 03-Feb-12 23:32:45

"Protagonists on both sides will produce evidence to support their ideas and dismiss research which does not support their beliefs as flawed."

If research is flawed, it's flawed.

"There is a problem in this though Those who think birth is a 'lovely, normal, experience’ are more likely to be attracted to midwifery, to being NCT teachers, doulas and independent midwives."

I think what you find is that those people who think that birth can be a BETTER experience for most, if not all women, with good care, tend to be attracted to being NCT teachers, doulas, midwives and independent midwives.

And actually many people are attracted to these professions following horrible experiences at their own births: they want to do something to make birth better for other women.

Nobody who knows anything about childbirth believes that birth is intrinsically 'lovely' for everyone.

PeaceandHope - your friend is SO wrong. He also needs to remember that women are completely focused during this time on the care of an intensely vulnerable individual, and in that need support for themselves, no matter how well they have recovered from the birth. It takes 3 to 6 weeks to establish lactation properly . If for nothing else mums need to be given consideration during this time so that they can breastfeed their baby. I'm convinced that breastfeeding goes down the pan for so many UK mums because they're not given that special down time at the start to focus on this.

shagmundfreud Fri 03-Feb-12 23:41:02

"The consequence is that the 'birth is a normal life experience' group are much more vocal about birth and they predominate in maternity professions"

Two things: birth is a normal life experience. Doesn't mean it's not deeply shocking!

Second thing: midwives as a profession are deeply wedded to the notion of normality. But they ARE a) aware of and b) concerned about, those women who have extremely difficult births. Because it's what they're doing day in and day out: caring for these women. They've seen more third degree tears, more emergency c/s, more emergency hysterectomies, readmissions to hospital following birth, babies in SCBU, than you can shake a stick at. Every week they'll probably care for at least one woman whose labour ends in theatre (at least this is the case for midwives working in a CLU). It's their bread and butter.

And the ones who've failed to maintain their humanity in the face of women's suffering - well, it's not the result of a philosophy which promotes normality in childbirth. It's the result of them becoming emotionally and intellectually fucked up from working too long in a sausage factory like maternity system.

PeaceAndHope Sat 04-Feb-12 01:21:24


I know he's completely wrong. But this is the kind of apathy and misinformation I was referring to in my OP. Apparently, some People seem to think that childbirth takes a couple days to recover from and that newborns are easy to handle while recovering from 40 odd weeks of pregnancy and a delivery.

You make a very important point about breastfeeding. I'd like to point out that many women opt not to breastfeed and they too need at least 4 weeks of taking it easy. Doing heavy housework within weeks of giving birth is dicey.
It's actually insensitive and inhuman to even expect it of your wife!! I'm glad I'm not married to that bozo.

BritishDruid101 Tue 04-Dec-12 14:23:13

"Is it traditionalism by virtue of which women are "meant" to bear children"
For you it was of-course 'tradition' as the reason you were capable and did give birth
But for the humans we were biologically meant to have wombs and be able to give birth (and to know this even!) since we evolved into mammals.
the last 40k years matters

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