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feminism and homebirth

(74 Posts)
darleneconnor Tue 25-Jan-11 21:08:31

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?

FlamingoBingo Tue 25-Jan-11 22:02:07

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.

FlamingoBingo Tue 25-Jan-11 22:02:48

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'?

FlamingoBingo Tue 25-Jan-11 22:03:41

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?

tethersend Tue 25-Jan-11 22:09:17

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.

TheProvincialLady Tue 25-Jan-11 22:16:04

That's fair enough. I think women need facts and choices, not to be literally sold home birth or hospital birth.

KatieMiddleton Tue 25-Jan-11 22:25:19

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.

wukter Tue 25-Jan-11 22:26:47

Very good post Katie. You'll be an asset to William, dear wink

KatieMiddleton Tue 25-Jan-11 22:28:31

Just so long as no one finds out about that home birth. Or that I have opinions wink grin

MillyR Tue 25-Jan-11 22:30:19

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.

wukter Tue 25-Jan-11 22:31:15

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.

LeninGrad Tue 25-Jan-11 22:32:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tethersend Tue 25-Jan-11 22:32:34

"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."

Exactly, MillyR.

wukter Tue 25-Jan-11 22:34:17

Exactly MillyR.

And who'll end up washing the bloody sheets?

wukter Tue 25-Jan-11 22:34:45

blush pardon the pun

KatieMiddleton Tue 25-Jan-11 22:35:51

I don't know of anyone who's pro-HB who promotes it above hospital birth hmm 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 biscuit

wukter Tue 25-Jan-11 22:42:01

MillyR's anti-housework justification really chimed with me - but I'm possibly being a bit facetious.

MillyR Tue 25-Jan-11 22:44:30

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.

KatieMiddleton Tue 25-Jan-11 22:57:55

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.

MillyR Tue 25-Jan-11 23:02:32

I cannot even be bothered to get into a discussion with someone who thinks domestic violence is not a feminist issue.

KatieMiddleton Tue 25-Jan-11 23:09:13


FlamingoBingo Wed 26-Jan-11 09:02:59

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' shocksad - how is that honouring a mother's work!?

ThePosieParker Wed 26-Jan-11 09:48:58

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?!!

wukter Wed 26-Jan-11 09:55:08

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.

ThePosieParker Wed 26-Jan-11 10:03:05

I had community mws, nice women, and then emcs so perhaps there wasn't time!!

anastaisia Wed 26-Jan-11 10:06:34

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.

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