Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ideology in Birth Preparation Classes

I just discovered to my great surprise that birth preparation classes instead of offering medical facts and objective information sometimes push disgusting ideological propaganda.Often, this results in outright lies and marginalization of large groups of women.

My sister just attended such a class and was shocked by the following:


1. There were several hours dedicated to "natural birth" and only a few minutes on C-sections. What is the point of women with scheduled C-sections sitting through hours of information that is irrelevant to them and getting no information that is remains unexplained.

2. The women were shown a long video of "natural" birth. As for the C-section, they were told that a video of it is "too graphic" to be shown. The only result of this indoctrination is that women with elective C-sections and medically justified C-sections feel completely marginalized. Why aren't people who want to avoid the "natural" childbirth process consulted on whether they want to observe a video of it? Shouldn't their feelings be respected? Or has their decision (or, in many cases, medical necessity) to have a C-section put them outside the pale of people whose wishes deserve respect?

3. A lot of information on C-section complications and complications from epidurals (often completely false) was offered. No information on complications from the so-called "natural birth" was provided. The videos of natural birth show women whose deliveries are fast, complication free and are not accompanied by any screaming and crying. Imagine how horrible women who can't avoid screaming and crying must feel. No wonder so many women go into post-natal depressions after their expectations about childbirth are made completely unrealistic by such classes.

4. All the information that was offered on C-sections quoted sources from the 80ies. The only purpose of that is to conceal from women any medical advances that have been made in this area in the past 20 years and scare them into "natural birth."

The most offensive thing is that people paid for these classes in hopes of obtaining objective facts. All they got as a result is a shameless propaganda of somebody's truly medieval views on childbirth. Can't women be left free of control and brainwashing even at such an important, intimate, and dangerous moment in their lives? Or are we considered so innately stupid hat even faced with objective data we will not be able to make a decision that is right for us?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are right; childbirth is an important, intimate and even dangerous moment in a woman’s life. A woman who is relying on a surgeon and a surgical procedure for her birth experience is especially vulnerable. Informed choice is vital whenever a woman enters a hospital. Sexism and chauvinism rule the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
But I really didn’t understand the vibe of your post here. It was, well, actually quite hostile. The United States has a C-Section rate around 31% which is alarming even to the medical community who reports those statistics. Women are THREE TIMES more likely to die from a C-section delivery than from a non-surgical birth experience. And the USA is leading the way.
Choice, choice and choice. Informed choice—that is what women should be demanding. If you and your sister were that offended that your birthing center/hospital focused on the preferred/non-surgical birth experience then you should advocate for a special film/class for women who know they will be having a surgical birth experience.
No ‘natural’ birth experience that I am aware of was without tears, sweat, pain, urine, shit and blood; but then neither was any surgical birth devoid of any of the above. Giving birth is a painful, messy, spiritual experience. MY sister had both; a C-section first and then a vaginal second. She demanded the vaginal birth the second time because of the recovery time after a major surgery.
“Hey! You just had major surgery and now here is your infant to care for! Good Luck!”
She fought for a ‘natural’ childbirth the second time because she could not afford the recovery time from surgery with a toddler AND a new born.
What women do NOT need is another women vs. women fight to distract from the real issue of sexism in the OB and GYN medical community.
So, go back to your hospital and ask for explain why you felt their childbirth classes did not met your expectations or needs. Request that they step it up. Demand that they answer your questions and concerns. Point out any deficiencies in the films or materials. Fight to make the experience better for the women who follow you—just like us oldsters did in back in the ‘80’s when we were all shaved, drugged, and left to labor alone because ‘no men allowed’ meant not even our husbands. (Don’t even ask about “fathers”.)
I have to say I never thought that next generation would be bitching that a ‘so called natural’ birth experience stole the show from their surgical plan. Huh. How funny that ‘natural’ is exactly what we fought so hard for. Because the only film I saw in 1984 was a woman hidden under a mountain of surgical covers, her vulva shaven clean like a 9 year old, an episiotomy routinely cutting her, while the baby was hung upside down and slapped as he emerged and then taken from the room (the mother had plenty of time to see him later). The (male) OB-GYN was the star of that film, that is for sure.
Seriously; we do not need to be fighting each other over this vital topic. Make your experience your own, but please take the time to educate yourself a bit about the history of labor and delivery and then place your experience of that context and on that continuum of control/not in control. Own your own birth experience and celebrate it, but do not forget or ignore the women before you who made your choice possible.

Clarissa said...

"Women are THREE TIMES more likely to die from a C-section delivery than from a non-surgical birth experience."

-I'm sure you are talking about death rate after unscheduled C-sections performed during birth complications.

I pointed out that I was talking about scheduled C-sections (that last 30-40 minutes) and are very safe.

It is very shocking to me that you can be so cold and insensitive as to talk about deaths from C-sections to a person who just said that her sister is about to have one.

"Because the only film I saw in 1984 was a woman hidden under a mountain of surgical covers, her vulva shaven clean like a 9 year old, an episiotomy routinely cutting her, while the baby was hung upside down and slapped as he emerged and then taken from the room (the mother had plenty of time to see him later). The (male) OB-GYN was the star of that film, that is for sure. "

-I personally do not see anything wrong whatsoever about this description. So it's a little hard for me to see what the fight you just described has been all about.

As for choice, my entire post is dedicated to showing a concrete instance where women are shamed and patronized into making a "choice" that somebody for some reason appointed to be the right one.

Anonymous said...

Again, deep breaths.

I was surprised that the tone is women vs women. If you read my entire post again, it is all about CHOICE and informed CHOICE.

So, go back to your hospital/clinic and firmly ask them to create classes more comfortable for YOU and YOUR CHOICE.

Just like we did.

I was pointing out that the overall C section rate here in the USA was high and that might explain why your clinic focused on the natural non surgical birth experience.

Our emotional reaction is indicative at how personal this topic is and how supportive we need to be of each other. Right?

We didn't have any choices in the 1970's and 1980's by the way. None. It was their way or...I guess the literal highway.

Try to imagine a world with no internet to research and a hospital with 'rules' that you didn't even know about until you showed up in labor....

That is what we all fought for. Information and choice.

And I am still fighting for that.

Clarissa said...

"I was surprised that the tone is women vs women. "

-I don't know where you've seen that. I never said that those birthing classes were organized by women. Actally, they are provided by a hospital.

I'm with you on your fight, though, 100%.

Anonymous said...

"If you and your sister were that offended that your birthing center/hospital focused on the preferred/non-surgical birth experience then you should advocate for a special film/class for women who know they will be having a surgical birth experience."

Fantastic, who do I advocate to?? Where do I find such a class?? Other women - such as yourself - are pushing their ideas on others without even having the facts of their specific situations. I am not offended by the medical staff as much as I am by your insensitive comments. By the way, the class was NOT offered by a hospital or a birthing center. I paid my own money for a private course and was not informed that I would have to sit through 95% of so-called 'natural' labour information. By the way, 'natural' would be squatting at home without any medical assistance whatsoever. Had I tried that, I would have died because of the condition I have with my placenta. So, let's stop calling it 'natural' and let's use 'vaginal' since that's what it is.

What I don't understand is that you were not in this class and never spoke to me about it - you have no clue what was shown or discussed. What qualified you to pass a judgement and provide death statistics?? This post is about MY experience with a birthing class I attended. If you don't want a woman-on-woman fight, don't start one. I didn't go to your blog to pass judgement on your comments and to quote you death statistics before you undergo surgery. I certainly don't feel discriminated by my medical staff here; you (and other women similar to you) on the other hand just do not seem to be able to stop offending and showing complete lack of sensitivity.

Anonymous said...

Recommendation: research your birth preparation course options before attending. Many are geared towards certain birthing practices, which means some may be focused on or even encouraged over others. You need to take that responsibility yourself because there is so much varying information out there.

Second point -- even planned c-sections are dangerous and can be traumatic to recover from, as can vaginal births depending on complications. However, mortality and recovery time from c-sections is well higher than from typical vaginal births.

Third -- yes, our c-section rates are VERY high compared to other "developed" countries, which is something we she consider in light of the fact the maternal mortality are also the highest amongst our peer nations. Rates of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia are also higher in our country. Simply put, it is more dangerous to be a pregnant or birthing woman in the US than in other "developed" nations. Again, EDUCATE YOURSELF.

If you can't find a class to teach you, use a book. Use advice from other mothers. Use the internet. All of these things with a grain salt, eh?

Clarissa said...

Actually, you are the one who needs to educate yourself. verything you say about the "danger" of c-sections is uninformed and wrong. Here is some actual information for you: http://clarissasbox.blogspot.com/2009/07/truth-about-c-section.html

You should know hat there are NO birthing classes that tell you about c-sections as a viable otion becuase our society has succumbed to the "natural-birth-hysteria." So the advice to look for something that doesn't exist is really kind of useles.

So once again: get some information before you lecture people on how they need to educate themselves.

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