Rage Against the Birthing Machine

Anyone who has had a child in the last quarter century likely has a strong opinion about the state of the modern birthing industry (full disclosure: as a man, I am unable to get pregnant and give birth, but I will say with confidence that I was an instrumental/essential part of the birth of my own child, I know my way around a birth plan, and have been known to pal around with doulas and midwives). Some people look at the western world’s low infant mortality rate and see the unequivocal progress of a time-tested, well-oiled medical machine, whereas others see the birthing industry as an oppressive, sometimes dangerous, harsh deviation from the natural order of the birthing process.

Author and mother, Shonagh Strachan, in writing Industrial Childbirth for the culture-jamming magazine Adbusters, takes personal issue with her particular harrowing birthing experience in a Dublin hospital, as well as the “systematic violence” that has become the dominant birthing experience in the western world. Strachan’s birthing experience, however unsettling and personally distressing, is regrettably not at all unique in the current mechanized system of birth and neonatal care. With a cesarean section rate hovering at about 30 percent in the United States, the incidence of medical intervention utilizing drugs and evasive measures being standard practice in many hospital births, and the general birth experience becoming a largely medical procedure (rather than a natural and empowering event), it is no wonder that many men and women alike have become disenchanted, troubled, and outraged by the current state of being.

To be fair (which I always attempt to be), many doctors, nurses and obstetricians are responsible for some truly amazing work in both delivery and saving lives. In numerous cases, medical intervention is essential for the well-being of both mother and child. However, it goes without saying that on far too many occasions, we have fallen into the cycle of rendering the birthing process to be a clinical occurrence rather than an instinctive one. Many women wind up feeling ripped off, or even abused by their hospital birthing experience, and continue to wrestle with the sense of powerlessness that came from the experience, by finding solace in the wisdom of others, or sharing their own experience, like the author mentioned above.

In this limited space, I will not even attempt to cover a fraction of the concerns associated with this hornet’s nest of an issue, but it is safe to say that the modern birthing industry is, without a doubt, a formidable topic that needs more dialogue, more understanding and empathy, as well as solutions that we could all live with (babies, mothers, doctors, etc.).

I invite you all to read the article by Shonagh Strachan, and voice your concerns and create a conversation about what is wrong, right, or in desperate need of review on this topic.

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


An M.
Anna M6 years ago

http://www.theunnecesarean.com/ is an awesome website focusing on this all-too-often completely UNnecessary major surgery!

Thanks for the article! :-)

An M.
Anna M6 years ago

A very important matter. The practice of inducing women has become so common that hardly anyone goes into labor naturally anymore. The c-section rate is out of control! No matter what anyone says, a c-section is major surgery, but women are expected to just get up and go. How ridiculous. Everything is for the doctor's (and the industry's) convenience (and pocketbook) The time to start discussing this was yesterday. This is an insult to the rights and intellect of every thinking woman (and a danger to her health and that of the baby)!

Kerin Lee
Kerin Lee6 years ago

This is a great article!

Vural K.
Past Member 7 years ago

mega kabin

Heather Britton
Heather B7 years ago

***I have Given birth with a midwife, she is highly trained and can fix issues that arise that doctors would just order a C/S.***

Sorry had to fix that ;)

Heather Britton
Heather B7 years ago

I strongly believe that Hospital birth is NOT the safest birth choice for low risk mothers.

Our C/S rate is High! I mean I am sorry But Surgery of that kind for stupid reasons and over use of drugs and interventions does Not constitute as SAFE!

Doctors Jump at the slightest sign of problems (Problems that in many cases are Not there!) and say Drugs, Pit, IV, then the Dreaded and over used C/S!

I have Given birth with a midwife, she is highly trained and can fix issues problems that arise that doctors would just order a C/S.

Sorry We may have fewer death rates then many countries But have most people even Looked at the Countries rates with higher midwife use for low risk moms?..Those are the countries doing the Best when it comes to birth.

Dorothy O.
Dorothy O7 years ago

My 3 children are well over 40. Back then, baby boom years, there was an assembly line mentality as women could be in the halls waiting. I have horror stories of my own. But one good thing I'll mention, I learned self-hypnosis from the ob-gyn when pregnant with my first. I use it with the dentist. I use it when I get shots, or IVs, or have blood drawn. I've had several surgeries, self hypnosis helps control pain, bleeding, after affects. It's similar to positive thinking and meditation, which I find helpful as well.

Lisa M.
Lisa M.7 years ago

People seem to forget how uncommon it now is for women and children to die during childbirth. While I certainly support a woman's choice to go drug-free and or postpone medical intervention as long as possible I do believe that if a medical center is available women should have their children where emergency care is down the hall. Babies don't have a say and if they did I can only imagine they would want to be in the safest environment so they could have the best chance for a happy, healthy life.

My child was born at Cal Pacific in SF which is ground zero of the doula movement. I was an exceptionally welcome patient because I let the person who went to medical school practice medicine without the intervention of someone who didn't. My friend who had a doula there almost lost the baby after 48+ hours of labor because when the baby went into severe distress the doula insisted that she continue trying to birth "naturally." The doctor was only able to intervene after several doctors explained to the father that the baby probably wouldn't live another hour. A "big beautiful birthing experience" should not be the goal. The goal is a healthy mother and child. Childbirth is by definition "natural."

Don't even get me started on how I couldn't buy a bottle at the hospital store to feed my preemie because the militants who worked there only believe in breast milk which I didn't have in adequate supply and I needed to supplement. Common sense should rule over politics.

Meredith H.
Meredith H7 years ago

30 years ago it was becoming normal in my circle of friends to have a midwife and use the Bradley method. I had both of my cildren at home and it was great, my midwives were great, and my children healthy. Two of my midwives were arrested for something that made them leave or quit. I refused to go to a hospital and would have stayed home alone. My daughter has had two cesaerseans and it was the best choice for her.

Sarah Wallbaum
Sarah Wallbaum8 years ago

I have been a birth doula for almost 5 years attending mainly hospital births. I have definitely witnessed instances of abuse of women (and ultimately their babies suffer as well) and many unnecessary interventions. Recently I have been assisting a CNM who only attends homebirths, and I no longer want to attend hospital births. The homebirths are so quiet and peaceful, and the midwife is so respectful of the birth process. Most babies are born in water and many mothers and fathers choose to be the ones to receive their babies while the midwife watches over them. There is no need to harshly rub or suction the newborn or to remove them from their parents loving hands. The babies are calm and alert and rarely even cry.

I think that if parents were aware of new research that links the narcotics and pitocin so commonly used in labor with neurological damage in their children that may not show up until they are older like autism and ADHD, they would choose not to have it. This quote is from the package insert on pitocin/oxytocin warning care providers of possible issues caused by this product: "Maternal deaths due to hypertensive episodes, subarachnoid hemorrhage, rupture of the uterus, fetal deaths and permanent CNS (central nervous system) or brain damage of the infant due to various causes have been reported to be associated with the use of parenteral oxytocic drugs for induction of labor or for augmentation in the first and second stages of labor."

We must change