feminism and homebirth(74 Posts)
I have noticed, although this is maybe just anacdotal, that a lot of pro-HB women in RL and on MN are also feminists.
I certainly feels that my pro-HB views are part of my feminist identity. Has anyone else thought about this?
It certainly seems like a kind of rejection of the over medicalisation of birth and medicine is historically a very male dominated arena. However, I have seen it mean that some people reject pain relief which seems to be the opposite of a feminist belief! (Why experience pain if you can avoid it? We don't make people pass gall stones without pain relief).
Well, I think for me it does go along with rejection of the male doctors who decided that they knew better than nature and started telling women how to birth, how to feed and mother their babies etc.
Certainly there is a great need for caesareans and interventions, but they are vastly overused, and the evidence definitely says that for uncomplicated births, homebirth is safer. It's about asserting your right to make an informed, rational choice, and not just do what (historically male) doctors have told us to do just because they're men.
I think it's less that 'feminism makes us choose to birth at home' and more that the part of us that makes us question social norms wrt to birthing/mothering etc. also makes us question social norms wrt the equality of men and women.
I don't know that I have pro-HB views. As a feminist, I am very pro education and choice, so that women can give birth in the environment they feel suits their circumstances best, rather than being told or made to do something because a person in a white coat (or a kaftan, for that matter) says so. Having said that, I chose a HB for DS2 (because of the crappy male ego-centric environment in my local hopsital, which I experienced with DS1).
Hmm, conversely, it seems like a victory for feminism that maternal care was taken seriously enough to warrant medical intervention. Look to many parts of Africa today, for example.
Speaking as the granddaughter of a woman who had her first 3 at home and was overjoyed at the prospect of safe, hospitalised births with pain minimalisation, personally I feel that HB ain't neccessarily more fulfilling/empowering. (Nan had some bad experiences)
It's about choice, though, isn't it, Wukter. If you choose to have your baby in hospital, fully informed, then that is good. When you have your baby in hospital because the option to choose has been taken out of your hands and you are no longer in control of your own birthing experience, then that is not good.
That is true Flamingo. But I think people are a bit quick to jump towards HB. But that's jmo, and of course everyone is entitled to jump any which way they want.
For me it's part of being pro-choice, no one should be forced to accept medical interventions that they don't want, and that doesn't change one bit because the person in question happens to be a pregnant/labouring woman.
I would not want a homebirth for myself (quite the opposite in fact, my ideal would be elective c-section!) so have no interest in 'pushing' the idea on anyone else. I feel women should make their own decisions - ideally based on both the best-available evidence regarding safety etc along with their personal values and feelings.
It's also perhaps relevant that a lot of women seem to choose homebirth after their first birth experience in a hospital was a bad one because of unwanted interventions or their wishes being ignored or overruled, basically losing the right to autonomy over their own bodies. From a feminist point of view obviously I would prefer that to not happen in the first place.
It's an education issue surely? I'm sure I've read stats somewhere that say the higher the level of education, the more likely a homebirth is. And a class one too, certainly in my area homebirth is seen as a very middle class thing.
I considered a HB with DS1 and the idea was laughed at by the MW. I was not allowed to even talk about it, let alone choose. Even with DS2, after I was much better educated on the matter, obsetricians would talk about "allowing" me to give birth at home. That kind of language makes me so angry.
But globally, maternal mortality & injuries are major problems. Because women are way down the list when it comes to health care provision.
I don't think it's a feminist thing. I wouldn't class myself as particularly feminist but am pro-HB.
The Provincial Lady, I would imagine that's a funding/resources issue, rather than control?
I'm not comfortable with the idea of 'male doctors who decided that they knew better than nature' etc though. Nature has really not done a very good job of 'designing' childbirth - the process is good enough to allow survival of the species (which is all that matters on that level and all that 'nature' cares about) but with really quite a high rate of casualties (both women and babies). Medical efforts to reduce the death and injury and pain resulting from 'natural' childbirth are pro- not anti-woman efforts IMO.
I'm pro-choice, though. I'm pro-not-being-told-you're-selfish-for-wanting-a-HB . I'm pro-respecting-women-choose-HB-because-they-feel-i t's-safest-for-them-and-their-baby-and-have-done-a -lot-of-reading-and-are-making-an-informed-choice.
i had a hb.
im not a feminist. our authority used to positively encourage hb, and having experienced both a hospital and a home birth i can see why.
so much easier, nicer and worry/pain free.
nothing to do with being a feminist in my case.
Wukter home birth costs less than hospital birth, even though there has to be two MW present.
Believe me, the people I am referring to were reinforcing their view of themselves as In Charge and knowing best (which of course they do in many situations, having been trained etc....but not in a perfectly straightforward pregnancy when the Trust's own guidelines state that HB is an option).
"I'm not comfortable with the idea of 'male doctors who decided that they knew better than nature' etc though. Nature has really not done a very good job of 'designing' childbirth - the process is good enough to allow survival of the species (which is all that matters on that level and all that 'nature' cares about) but with really quite a high rate of casualties (both women and babies). Medical efforts to reduce the death and injury and pain resulting from 'natural' childbirth are pro- not anti-woman efforts IMO."
Have you heard of 'The Farm'? It's a large community in the US. There is a midwife there who supports the women there who birth. She works with them, their bodies, and nature. Her Caesarean rates are minute!
The first women to give birth on their backs, were asked to do so so their royal fathers could see them being born - naff all to do with what is best for baby/mother and everything to do with men putting themselves first.
Male doctors really did decide that women weren't to be trusted to birth or mother their own children without them telling htem how to do it.
I like to think I am a feminist and I am not pro HB. I am pro choice and empowering women to believe they can choose what is right for them and their baby. I totally agree with wutker's first post.
I have had 4 c-sections, without which neither myself or my children would have survived without.
Ye Ephiny, and of course, lots of doctors are FEMALE as well, not all male.
I am a feminist, and I chose a hospital birth for both my DC, with the option of an epidural (which I took).
I very much believe that if you can alleviate a person's pain without risk to mother or baby, that is a great option to have.
I was in the very capable hands of a male midwife, and a female anaesthetist
...also, I was "allowed" to walk around until I was around 9 cm, by which time I decided to lie down and have the drugs. I felt very much that everybody there was looking out for me and my baby, rather than imposing "their way".
But medicine is a very male environment isn't it? Not necessarily in terms of numbers...I think there are more women doctors now? But in terms of structures, history, traditions, protocol etc.
I am a feminist and anti-HB.
I'm not sure that it's a feminist choice to challenge the male medicalised environment of a hospital by not attending or opting out of the system.
Am prepared to have my mind changed, though.
But if you felt that way, then you were clearly informed, and felt in control. There are so, so many women who do not feel that way. For whom the whole realm of birth is taken out of their hands. Who, as soon as they get into hospital and put on their pyjamas, become 'patients' and do what the nice person wearing a uniform tells them to do.
There are, thankfully, more and more mother-centred midwives in hospitals, but it is still not the majority. Midwives still say 'just pop on the bed dearie, and let the doctor examine you'; doctors still tut at women making natural, normal birthing sounds as they manage their contractions. And this environment was created by men, for men.
Of course it is wonderful that the facilities exist to save mothers' and babies' lives; but they do not need to be quite like they are; and they do not need to be used as often as they are.
If a woman has made an informed choice to use them, that is great. If she has had the intervention pushed on her, then that is wrong IMO.
Has anyone on this thread read 'Stand and Deliver'?
Tethersend - what do you mean by 'anti-HB'? Do you mean you would never have one yourself? Or you are against them in general and don't think any woman should have one?
More that I am not 'pro HB'- the opposite IYSWIM.
I think it is often sold to women as 'their experience' (as are a lot of birth options) and I think this is disingenuous and can lead in some cases to a feeling of failure, which concerns me a great deal.
I am very interested in hearing other views though.
That's fair enough. I think women need facts and choices, not to be literally sold home birth or hospital birth.
I'm pro-home birth. I had one and i'm definitely a feminist but I dont think everyone should have a HB. And pro-choice on most things.
I think the traits that make you more likely to have a hb (or indeed any other kind of birth where you set the agenda so I'd include elective c-section too): not taking things at face value; doing your own research; making a decision that you feel is in your best interest; not just doing what you're told and is considered the accepted norm are all feminist traits too.
Very good post Katie. You'll be an asset to William, dear
Just so long as no one finds out about that home birth. Or that I have opinions
I'm not pro-HB. I have no experience of midwives the way FB is talking about them. They did not call me dearie or defer to a doctor. The only people in the room when I gave birth in hospital were midwives; I never saw a doctor. If there are issues with the behaviour of doctors in hospitals, that needs to be addressed by the doctors changing their behaviour, not by women feeling they can't give birth in a hospital.
Asides from which, a huge number of women aren't safe in their own home because they live with an abusive partner (frequently domestic violence starts during pregnancy). Midwives are already complaining that the more frequent presence of men at antenatal appointments means that women aren't getting the opportunity to tell the midwife about domestic violence. If we cut women off further from other women by promoting homebirths we exacerbate some women's problems and give their partners another opportunity to isolate them.
For many others their home is where they work, and going to a hospital, particularly a midwife led unit attached to a hospital acknowledges that the birth is about women - it is special and so takes place in a special place. Many women want to give birth in a female environment; for most women their house is not a female environment.
There is no way I would want to give birth at home. I'd probably end up making cups of tea and putting on loads of washing during childbirth. I wanted my birth to happen in a hospital, surrounded by other women who were having the same experience. I did not want it reduced to some run of the mill event that I would do at home.
Different women want different things, and it certainly is a feminist act to go out and fight for the right to have a home birth if you want it and others are needlessly standing in your way. But promoting homebirths above hospital births is not a feminist act.
I think you put it very well though, that it's the traits they share rather than one causing the other.
Going off to mull for a while.
"If there are issues with the behaviour of doctors in hospitals, that needs to be addressed by the doctors changing their behaviour, not by women feeling they can't give birth in a hospital."
And who'll end up washing the bloody sheets?
I don't know of anyone who's pro-HB who promotes it above hospital birth Two completely different things in my opinion.
If you have low-risk pregnancy and uncomplicated labour and you're comfortable at home then why not homebirth? And if you'd rather be in a hospital fine. Whatever makes you happy.
I really don't understand people who object to women having homebirths because they wouldn't want one themselves and try to justify it with some utter guff.
MillyR your domestic violence justification really takes the
MillyR's anti-housework justification really chimed with me - but I'm possibly being a bit facetious.
KM, I don't object to home births; I just think it has to be a woman's choice.
Domestic violence is something that feminists are concerned about, and something that midwives are concerned about.
It is a sad fact that the risk of being a victim of domestic violence increases during pregnancy, and many women don't have a supportive home environment.
Well having had a HB (and I know this is just one example so not saying conclusive proof or anything) my dh had to do lots of housework pre birth and clearing up post birth which isn't that bad because you just get big tarpaulins and bin them. Birthing pool however...
I also had two mws in my home at a stressful time which can't hurt for spotting domestic violence and I think dv is not a feminist issue.
Protection from dv is a right all people deserve andmtgs vast majority of people want.
I cannot even be bothered to get into a discussion with someone who thinks domestic violence is not a feminist issue.
I don't think people who 'push HBs' are actually doing that, you know. I've never, ever heard of anyone 'pushing HBs' so please point me in the direction of an example of that happening!
I think people who you think are pushing HBs are, in fact, pushing informed choice, which is a different matter entirely. It's like when people bemoan people pushing BFing, when actually, they're just trying to make sure that women are making informed choices. If no one told the truth about breastfeeding, then the only people who woudl tell you about baby feeding would be formula manufacturers.
I am a nurse - I can promise you that that way of speaking to women and patients at all, is very, very common. Even just watching OBEM, you can see midwives being patronising to women - not all, I grant you...probably not even the majority...but it does happen. And it's not a mother-centred way to behave. I've heard midwives refer to 'getting a natural delivery out of a mum' - how is that honouring a mother's work!?
KM....Really? You don't think DV is a feminist issue?
i wonder if the incidence of patronising women is more commonplace in less educated patients. I, for one, have never been patronised by health care professions...but then I am either too stupid to notice or too thick skinned?!!
Oh I don't know. Patronising, or soothing? Patronising or Mothering the mother? How do you encourage and console a perfect stranger, in pain, with her fanjo on display? Could all be in the perception, and let's face it in labour is not generally your most clear minded time.
I had community mws, nice women, and then emcs so perhaps there wasn't time!!
Is it really about home/hospital birth or is it really more about consent and ownership of bodies, and the balance of power in 'society' vs in the home?
In most other medical situations doctors/health professionals advise and help patients to decided on a course or action/treatment. Yet time and time again women post and talk about birth experiences that have left them feeling as though they have been raped or assaulted. That they have been treated like a child and not been allowed to make their own adult decisions. That doctors have started examinations or procedures without explanation or gaining consent to do so. And might some of that come from the fact that there is a general perception that women are perpetually consenting unless they indicate otherwise?
So home birth is perhaps one way of shifting the balance of power? As is paying a doula to be there. Or probably lots of other things individual women do.
And that doesn't mean that all health professionals will be that way, or even all birth centres or hospitals; but that just the fact that it is a system and you enter into it makes for a some imbalance of power because of the way it's structured.
Does that make sense?
But, I was interested in Milly's comment about female environments. I had a home birth, and live in a shared home with family - including my mum. And actually, that it was 'her' house did make a difference; both to the way I felt, the level of support I had, the care afterwards.
Hospital birth is not intrinsically sexist and homebirth is not intrinsically feminist. I can't bear the idea we should all stay away from hospitals because there are some men there who have some medical qualifications and therefore some power. They are,save for some bad examples you'd find in any sphere of life, helping women. Good for them. There are female doctors as well you know.
katie I'm sorry I don't agree with your list of traits a home-birth chooser is more likely to have and I don't know on what evidence you've come up with that. I've got those qualities and I used my ability to think for myself to decide a hospital birth is best for me.
If strong-minded, independent-thinking women do give birth in hospital, things in hospitals might get better.Although it's everyone's individual choice, of course.
I am a feminist and I suppose pro-home birth in that I tried for one with dd1 and had one for dd3.
I am quite in favour of the benefits of medical science, especially pain relief, but I'm a total fan of women not having to suffer any unnecessary pain/indignity/discomfort through pregnancy or childbirth. So I'd be in favour of whatever fits that best for the individual woman.
Posie yes I think dv is not a feminist issue per se but an issue for all society. I don't think it's gender bound. That's not to say I don't think it's an important issue or something feminists are interested in but no, I don't agree it's a feminist issue.
eastegg if you read my post again you will see that I associated those traits with women who set the agenda of their birth. Not just homebirth-ers - I mentioned elective c-section for example. But my justification of that point would be that homebirth is not common. It is in fact the least common option in this country and the fact that a woman would elect to have a homebirth when it is not the norm would indicate she has some of those traits I mentioned and I would suggest those traits are common to feminists too.
If you would like "evidence" you could look up the birthing statistics for the UK and see that homebirth is a minority option and you could look at some feminist writings and see how they question the accepted status quo.
On informed choice.
I was encouraged to think about having a HB as I had antenatal depression (I'm not sure why my midwife thought this would help). However, on the advice of a friend I pushed and pushed to get a scan at 38 weeks. DD was undiagnosed breech (I was told that she was engaged), and I shudder to think what would have happened had I followed the midwife's suggestion.
Without that scan, I would not have been making an informed choice about anything. I had an elcs which is what I wanted all along TBH.
I think it is the issue of informed choice which is a feminist issue, not HB.
It's very alarmist and dangerous to paint hospital births as anti-feminist; which suggesting HB is a feminist choice does.
Any thoughts on why women cannot elect to have caesareans?
Surely this is as much a feminist issue as HB, as Katie mentioned?
I don't think hospital birth is anti feminist. I think birth choice and more specifically informed birth choice lie at the very heart of feminism. If you request a homebirth or anything "unusual" you have to go through a process of justifying your decision. Women have been making decisions about their lives for years and yet birthing is one area where you're more likely to have to fight to have your decision complied with.
Tethers the issue with elective c-section is cost i think. I have known women who have had them but they have all paid for them. But that's another issue possibly??
<opens can of worms>
" I can't bear the idea we should all stay away from hospitals because there are some men there who have some medical qualifications and therefore some power."
Who has said this!? Please, please can someone who is suggesting that there are people who think that all mothers should birth at home tell me where!?!?!?! In all the years of researching home births, having my own home births, supporting women making choices, I have never, ever come across anyone with this attitude or belief.
If you are perceiving this, I think it highly likely that you are misunderstanding people who are fighting for women to be able to make informed choices and have power over their own bodies and births.
KM - elective caesarean birth means 'planned'. I think you are referring to elective caesareans for non-medical reasons?
In my post where I state women I known paid for elective c-section yes I do mean non-medically necessary but in my other posts I mean the term to cover all non-emergency c-sections.
For example, a mum I knew was told her baby was probably breech and she could have an elective c-section or "have a go" herself. She chose the c-section. I make no judgement if she'd chosen the other option. If it had been me I would have taken the c-section based on all the evidence available at the time.
Gosh apologies for typos. On iPhone and multi-tasking badly!
katie I simply don't agree that doing something that a minority do is evidence that the person doing it is more of a free, independent thinker. Your inclusion of ELCS, because it's the woman 'setting the agenda', proves my point really. Elective obviously just means it's not an emergency, not necessarily that it was the woman pushing (if you'll excuse the pun) for it. She could have been talked into it by a load of doctors!
flamingo you talked about 'the rejection of male doctors'. I've just gone back and read it. So I don't think my perception was far off the mark.
I'm not in any way anti-home-birth. I'm anti-the idea that there's something inherently feminist about it.
"Tethers the issue with elective c-section is cost i think."
It is, I agree- but this means women cannot make a free choice about how they give birth, informed or otherwise.
I would have preferred to have a cs even if DD hadn't been breech.
eastegg - historically, doctors were all men. When birth started to become over-medicalised, it was because of male doctors. I am talking about the rejection of what they said. Sorry if you misunderstood me.
And I also reject the idea that HB is connected to feminism, but I do agree that choice in childbirth is a feminist issue, simply because, IMO, the taking away of choice is historically a misogynist process.
Eastegg you are making assumptions about my posts. You are assuming fact where I am suggesting possibility and likelihood and correlation not necessarily causation.
We may have to agree to differ because I have a paper to write although I'd love to stay and debate more because it's interesting.
I may be back later though to catch up if my will to resist fails
I have read so much on elcs, mainly to defend my own position, two emcs and two elcs.
Have read most of thread...but apologies if I've missed bits....
But I though this wa san interesting thread and just wanted to add my POV
I have 6 DC. First 4 were born in hospital, 3 were indeced (late!) nos 5 and 6 I deceided to have at home.
This was a personal choice.
With No 6 I was told lots that I "couldnt" have a homebirth due to increased risk as I had already had 5 DC. However I did LOTS of reading of research and info and made an informed choice that was what I wanted. I stood my ground! Then the little bighter decieded to be 19 days overdue and I had to resist LOTS of pressure to go into hospital to be induced. Again I was able to quote lots of research at them to demonstrate I was making an informed choice, but the bottom line was I was trusting my body and my instinct at this point.( I was apparently much talked about in the antenatal clinic LOL)
There would have been points at which medical opinion would have overidden my desire for homebirth...if I had agreed and decided there was risk to baby...but it really did all come down to me making informed choices...
I don't especially consider myself a feminist.
The main person I had to argue with in my last pregnancy was a female consultant!
Oh ...and just to add... I am a doctor...and a female LOL
induced...not indeced...clearly I can't type LOL
Well my hospital birth was definitely anti-feminist....after many unwanted interventions, I was lying there in stirrups shaking, being stitched up with only intermittent pain relief and the man stitching me up turned to DH and said with a wink "Is that tight enough?"
My home birth experience with number two could be described as a feminist experience, as I felt utterly respected by the midwives who attended, able to decide exactly what I wanted to do, and play an active role rather than being a passive piece of meat for random strangers to poke things into....
Spooktrain at that awful comment. You poor thing.
Jesus H Christ spooktrain how disrespectful, I hope your husband smacked him.
I am a student midwife-to-be, starting the degree in September. A huge part of the reason I chose to become a midwife is because I'm a feminist. I completely agree that informed choice is the feminist issue, not HB or hospital birth. I sat in on some antenatal classes recently and was floored to discover that the women simply didn't know they had choice in birth or even the option to say 'no' to things they might not want done. So I see my future job as providing woman-centred care and making sure she has an advoate for her choices, not to push one agenda or another (until I get beaten down by the system that is ...)
I would love a homebirth next but I am too scared that something would go wrong, and then I would feel guilty about it.
I had a water birth in the hospital though and was completely left to it (due to staff shortages we only saw the midwife for about 10 minutes when I was pushing!) I like the fact that if you need help though they are there on hand if you need it. Although my birth was pretty natural and a good experience my daughter came out not breathing and if I hadnt been in a hospital I think she might have died. I was glad for the help that the staff gave me and they didnt push me in to anything I didnt want to have.
For me I'd have to say it's co-incidental that I had a homebirth and am feminist.
I chose a homebirth for DD2 because I had a horrible time in hospital with DD1 - my care was woefully inadequate, but the woeful care was, with one male exception, provided by women.
FlamingBingo may have it right though that perhaps I am more inclined to question social norms and felt it easier to do what I actually felt was best for me, rather then what was expected of me.
Spooktrain - OMG! I would so have lodged a complaint against that doctor! I hope you did!
I can see where committed homebirthers are coming from, but after having a very scary birth experience where my life and my child's life depended on a quick c-section, I am also hugely grateful to the wonderful (female) surgeon who delivered my baby and the terrific hospital midwives who cared for us afterwards.
I admit I am slightly ambivalent about the whole thing. I sort of waver between thinking 'women's bodies were designed to do this' and then thinking 'but history, right up until my mother's generation, is littered with the dead bodies of women and children who weren't born into the world happily into their warm sitting rooms...'
I do think birth is a feminist issue, but I also think the fear and mistrust of the medical profession can be over-egged.
When I tell some people that I requested an elective section for my second child, I can almost hear some of the real advocates of natural birth I know inwardly sighing, perhaps feeling sorry for me? This is not me projecting, I promise. I had a very long lecture the other day from another mum about how empowering it is to give birth vaginally.
I just thought 'Yes, I'm sure it is. It is also empowering to be alive!'
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