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Childbirth and feminism

(51 Posts)
WantsToBeAMan Wed 28-Sep-11 01:42:05

HI, I'm new here smile
waves at everyone

I have been a doing a lot of research on childbirth recently, ever since I lost a very dear friend to an aneurysm while she was delivering her son.

I have come to the conclusion that childbirth is a deeply feminist issue.

For years, women have been told "How" to give birth. They've been told that the doctor ( very often male ) knows what is best. They have been told to grin and bear it, being overwhelmed by the whole experience is not acceptable.

Every time I watch a childbirth video on You Tube, particularly the ones in which the woman is placed in stirrups, I feel like even in the act of the most supreme sacrifice women are objectified. There is not much concern for her dignity and privacy, or her comfort.

Complaining about this gets comments like "grow up" or "women in labour don't care" or "well, that's how you have a baby". That may be true, but the experience can be made a lot more pleasant for the woman than it is.

The most deeply disturbing fact is the lack of choices when it comes to birthing methods.
I firmly believe in the concept of informed consent. Telling women "they don't know what's best for them" is insulting and infuriating. I feel every woman has the right to choose how she wants to give birth- be it a water birth, a home birth, or even a c section. As long as she is aware of the pros and cons, she MUST have complete control over her body.
As it is, women have to seek approval for their preferred method of delivery. They are "allowed" to have HB or ELCS.

I also feel that the birthing process is more about the mother than the baby. Before people throw things at me, I will clarify.
I meant, that the mother has to live with the memory of the day. We don't remember the day we were born right? I know so many women who suffer from extreme PND because of traumatic births. I feel like there is focus on the baby's safety, but not really on the mother's.

I remember when I read about Baby Alexandra Campbell and how the doctors ended up killing her with forceps. There was a similar story about a little boy.
In both cases, the mothers did not consent to the use of forceps and they were used regardless. This disrespect for a woman's autonomy over her body is atrocious. I also wonder if this issue would have been brought up at all had God had mercy on the babies and they had survived. The act of disrespect towards a woman's body would have been the same, but it would never have been spoken of.

Women should have the right to refuse ANY intervention during labour.
In a matter of life or death, things may be different, but even then I vote for women having the final say.


WantsToBeAMan Wed 28-Sep-11 01:47:50

I forgot to add-

The repercussions of childbirth are treated with shocking callousness ( I'm talking about crappy post natal care)
It's almost as if they imply, that if we have incontinence, a loose fanjo, uterine prolapse or in some of the horrendous cases things like clitoral tears it isn't important because we have a baby.
It just isn't important enough for HCPs to pay full attention.

blackcurrants Fri 30-Sep-11 01:28:08

Well, I don't know where to go with all this (am outside of the UK and gave birth outside of the UK so am not best placed for activism) but I throroughly agree with you. Giving birth to a child is one of the most powerful things a woman can do, so of course lots of things are done to her and the process to remove that power....

it's why some (feminist- minded)midwives refer to their work as 'catching' the baby, not delivering it. Because the mother delivers the baby.

glub Fri 30-Sep-11 23:29:34

so what if you're told this or that. you deal with it. for me it was learning about what was the crappy norm at the local hospital then listening to hypnobirthing cd's all the time and thinking round it. deal with it. i did it my way thanks horrid midwives trying to rush me, others ignoring me etc. much horribleness in my birth experiences but luckily i had my head right. supply and demand right? if everyone came in asking for waterbirths they might expand their waterbirth provision. i'd hope. but until you can afford some lovely scented dimmed lighted one-on-one midwife care then put up and shut up. there are worse things out there. i had to say no to my midwives a number of times on significant matters. women do get the choice of homebirth/waterbirth.
obviously the richer you are the more choice you get. money money money. a decent midwife will have the experience you lack. so it's hardly a matter of just 'catching' a baby. eg. don't put yourself in that position you'll squish the baby.
medical staff mess up all over the place not just in regard to childbirth.
so if you can't afford to employ someone to think for you then you're going to have to do it for yourself. it's your baby take responsibility.
but yes it might be nice if there was a little more regard for the mother rather than just the extraction of a live baby.

MrsKarbonara Fri 30-Sep-11 23:41:26

Hi Wants, are you new to MN or new to the feminism section? Interesting name grin

So sorry to hear about your friend. I think any issue that massively affects women is a feminist issue, so yes this is a big one. Women's autonomy over their bodies comes into many other debates as well ie abortion, rape etc.

Hmm someone waaay more erudite will be along shortly am sure.

<re lurks>

WantsToBeAMan Sun 02-Oct-11 15:11:46

Hi MrsKarbonarasmile

I'm new to MN actually. My name pretty much reflects my attitude;) I'd agree to be a man in a heartbeat if God was willing to grant me my wish.

KellyKettle Fri 30-Mar-12 07:35:10

Can I bump this thread rather than starting my own?

I came on here looking for some specific links to women's rights/care/support around reproduction. It is something I feel very strongly about but have no idea where to start.

I woke up this morning and read something on FB about someone having to pay about $60k (Australia) for an enquiry into the death of her baby during a homebirth, she was treated horrifically.

Then I read something else about abortion laws in Arizona will calculate the age of the fetus from LMP rather than conception which I understand will reduce the upper limit by 2 weeks compared to other states.

It just makes me want to do something. I have no idea what.sad

LegoStuckInMyHoover Sat 31-Mar-12 19:07:23

have you read any shiela kitzinger?

KellyKettle Mon 02-Apr-12 08:23:53

Only Birth Crisis.

PignutSalamander Mon 07-May-12 21:51:03

For a more inspiring outlook on childbirth look up ina may gaskin!
A word of warning for women who have already had traumatic birth experiences (like myself) her book spiritual midwifery will make you feel cheated. This is a must for all expectant mothers

AliceHurled Tue 22-May-12 09:54:46

Kelly I hear you. Have you heard of AIMS? They spoke at feminism in London and opened my eyes.

Books you might be interested in are indeed Ina may gaskin, and misconceptions by naomi wolf. There's others that they should lead you to.

There are Facebook groups too, 'one born every minute the truth' is good. Then follow links from there.

There might also be local stuff. If there are doulas where you are, in my experience some are often birth activists too, so it might be worth getting in their networks. You're not alone in this thinking at all.

learningaswego Sat 09-Jun-12 13:45:00

I am sorry about your friend, how awful.

Did you watch the 'Harlots, housewives .... 17th century britain' on bbc 4? In the 2nd one the female historian talks about how the role of the midwife changed as male doctors came onto the scene and the more dignified 'birthing chair' previously used during childbirth (makes the mother part of the process, used gravity) then became abandoned for the more vulnerable lying down position where forceps and other tools would be much easier to use if any complications arise with the baby.

I do think that in an age where people get antibiotics for much minor incidences it is RIDICULOUS that there is no better pain relief available for childbirth. If men had to go through such pain then I have no doubt other forms of relief would be available, or would be more readily given. I don't know anyone who has been in labour and got an epidural without hours of begging and fighting with the midwives.

Personally I felt bullied, vulnerable and alone in labour. I was induced and had to stay in overnight and when my contractions started and I begged for my mother/ partner to be called and be beside me. To this I was told that to call them would be selfish as she would see me in this pain.... and didn't I know what I was signing up for when I fell pregnant?

All the healthcare professionals I had during my labour were women, does this still make it a feminist issue or just another healthcare problem??

elizaregina Sat 16-Jun-12 22:48:51

I am horrified at the stories some women post about thier appalling experiences in CB. I know - that lots adn lots including me - had amazing care - amazing MW etc....

your in your most vulnerble state in labour with death being a real possibilty for mum and child so is there any room for shoddy - sloppy and down right vicous and nasty treatment?

There are alot of very vocal women on here and I wish they would get toghether to lobby whoever for womens rights in child birth!

Flobbadobs Fri 22-Jun-12 15:07:04

I've given birth 3 times over a 12 year period ( last time 5 months ago) and honestly thought things were improving until I read some of the stories on CB here!
The first time I was really told what to do and being quite young and inexperienced I just did it without question & felt bullied afterwards... Second time I was much more assertive but the aftercare was appalling, breastfeeding was pushed to the extent that formula was not allowed on the ward! DD would have ended up in SCBU if a friend hadn't smuggled some in for me to get her blood sugar stablised.
The last time I homebirthed, had everything my way and had mimimum intervention. I haven't had baby weighed since her check up and have nly seen the hv twice.
I trust my instincts but found that many times the hcp's dismissed concerns or questions, seemingly in favour of a medicalised checklist with no room for individual concerns.
As mentioned by a pp, most of the hcp's I saw were women, in fact the most considerate helpful medical person I saw during pg3 was the male consultant who did the amnio.
I don't think it's purely a feminist issue, the whole attitude to childbirth needs to be readjusted. Of course the outcome everybody wants is a live healthy baby and mother, but the ends don't justify the means. Disregarding the mother's feelings and mental wellbeing as seems to be reported many times on the cb threads, things like "you can't do this, you must do that" has a detrimental effect on the mother and must impact on her subsequent ability to care for or bond with the baby afterwards

lastnerve Wed 04-Jul-12 11:13:16

I had a consultation yesterday and I asked not to be hoiked up in stirrups as I have hyper mobile syndrome which means being put in stirrups and being pushed against would probably make my knee sockets pop out,

I asked if it could be put in my birth plan that I would like to kneel when it comes to delivery, she looked at me like I asked her to give me her bank card confused.

AliceHurled Thu 05-Jul-12 20:54:58

Lastnerve, you can do what you like in labour. They have no right to force anything, whatever they might like to think. If your midwife is not being supportive you have every right to change, speak to your supervisor of midwives.

lastnerve Thu 05-Jul-12 21:04:26

it was a consultant she had a 'snooty' air about her so to speak.

yeah I was just surprised at her face.

blackcurrants Thu 05-Jul-12 21:39:44

lastnerve something someone said to me when I was pg and thinking about being 'allowed' to use the tub/walk around during labour, was "I threw a nurse out of my delivery room cos I thought she had a shitty attitude. Just be a big bitch. Stop with this British shit, you're in New Jersey now. BE A BITCH!" grin
As it was people were lovely to me in labour (gave birth in Manhattan), though the aftercare left a bit to be desired - but I do think that the fear, vulnerability and pain we experience in labour makes us nervous and deferential at the exact time when we seem to need to be pushy and a bit of a bolshy so-and-so just to get the treatment/respect/BEING HEARD that we want... I was lucky that DH was deeply involved in our birth prep and has a very feminist mindset, so was ready to advocate for me ... but it shouldn't be like this!

I delivered DS lying on my side, it wasn't bad smile

EclecticShock Sun 22-Jul-12 19:46:18

"Women should have the right to refuse ANY intervention during labour.
In a matter of life or death, things may be different, but even then I vote for women having the final say. "

Most women are not qualified to have the final day and why should they have rights over the baby's rights?

PosieParker Mon 23-Jul-12 20:43:48

Qualified? Wtaf?

VivaLeBeaver Mon 23-Jul-12 20:47:25

Because in uk law an unborn baby doesn't have any rights. That's why a woman's rights should take priority.

EclecticShock Mon 23-Jul-12 21:14:18

Of course an unborn baby has rights...(I assume you are familiar with abortion rules). And yes not qualified..... You can't possible understand the risk involved for both mother and child in such a fast paced environment without medical training. That is a fact.

PosieParker Mon 23-Jul-12 21:18:03

Abortion laws.... Nope the baby has no rights. Women, weird I know, have been giving birth since the beginning of humankind..... I think we know what to do.

EclecticShock Mon 23-Jul-12 21:35:12

Ok I see you are takif the term literally, however, causing the death of an unborn child past a certain stage is illegal. So refusing a cesarean and causing the child to die would be problematic. Plus, generally on these circumstances the outlook is not great for the mother. I don't agree that women should believe they know better than doctors in cases of life and death.

VivaLeBeaver Mon 23-Jul-12 21:43:24

I'm very familiar with abortion laws and I can assure you from a legal perspective a fetus has no rights. Causing the death of a fetus after 24 weeks would be like the woman in the news today who bought misoprostal over the Internet and took it at 38 weeks. A distressed woman who refused consent for a forceps would not be charged if her baby died. Silly to suggest otherwise.

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