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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?

eastegg Wed 26-Jan-11 10:44:06

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.

Fennel Wed 26-Jan-11 10:52:18

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.

KatieMiddleton Wed 26-Jan-11 11:00:46

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.

tethersend Wed 26-Jan-11 11:24:54

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.

tethersend Wed 26-Jan-11 11:27:22

Any thoughts on why women cannot elect to have caesareans?

Surely this is as much a feminist issue as HB, as Katie mentioned?

KatieMiddleton Wed 26-Jan-11 11:37:18

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>

FlamingoBingo Wed 26-Jan-11 11:50:21

" 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?

KatieMiddleton Wed 26-Jan-11 12:22:01

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.

KatieMiddleton Wed 26-Jan-11 12:23:08

Gosh apologies for typos. On iPhone and multi-tasking badly!

eastegg Wed 26-Jan-11 12:48:50

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!

eastegg Wed 26-Jan-11 12:55:42

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.

tethersend Wed 26-Jan-11 13:01:43

"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.

FlamingoBingo Wed 26-Jan-11 13:04:54

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.

KatieMiddleton Wed 26-Jan-11 13:24:28

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 grin

ThePosieParker Wed 26-Jan-11 13:59:20

I have read so much on elcs, mainly to defend my own position, two emcs and two elcs.

OverflowingMum Wed 26-Jan-11 21:12:15

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

OverflowingMum Wed 26-Jan-11 21:14:04

induced...not indeced...clearly I can't type LOL

spooktrain Thu 27-Jan-11 11:11:56

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....

wukter Thu 27-Jan-11 13:19:38

shock Spooktrain at that awful comment. You poor thing.

msrisotto Thu 27-Jan-11 15:22:40

Jesus H Christ spooktrain how disrespectful, I hope your husband smacked him.

Bue Thu 27-Jan-11 18:42:20

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 hmm...)

noodle69 Fri 28-Jan-11 17:57:40

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.

AnnieLobeseder Fri 28-Jan-11 18:04:36

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!

CockneySparra Fri 28-Jan-11 18:11:12

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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