November 10, 2008

Adbusters Get Mad About The Childbirth Industrial Complex

There's your argument against national health care right there, in the pages of the culture jamming magazine, Adbusters. Writer Shonagh Strachan sounds like she had a pretty horrible time of it giving birth in Dublin, Ireland a few years ago.

Just on the straight facts, the procedures she went through sound like the standard of most medical/hospital deliveries in the Western world: a drip, and epidural, oxytocin, no food, nurseries. And there's no doubt that once you start down the medical path, it basically becomes a cascade of already determined treatment decisions that can end up in an unexpected C-section.

But Strachan might also be blaming the process for what sound primarily like problems with the hospital staff; in her case, doctors and nurses alike sounded downright surly and mean.

Two other elements that seem to be missing: a conscious, thought-out birthing plan. It should be possible to scope out and research delivery options and to see the facilities and meet the staff, long before you actually give birth. Someone who's dead-set against the medical auto-pilot approach could decide to go with an alternative to an OB hospital birth: a midwife, a birthing center, even a homebirth all seem possible enough to do in the UK. Can Ireland really be so different?

And the last thing missing: signs of meaningful involvement by the dad/partner. All there is is this mention from a couple of hours after the birth: "The baby's dad had been present at the birth but was also sent home." Which is too bad, because the whole thing sounds like an antagonistic experience where the new mom would have benefited from a strong advocate by her side to enforce the couple's decisions about the birthing options.

All this, and I still barely scratched the surface of Strachan's complaints or the controversies she spurred on; the AdBusters comment crowd is not shy about expressing the righteous superiority of their own perspectives. Lots of fun.

Industrial Childbirth []


I've had one hospital birth and two home births. Even with a birth plan the hospital machine has a predetermined patern. It doesn't change direction easily.

Here in Saskatoon, SK (Canada), the hospitals have a very "let's wait and see" attitude towards birth. Midwives are licensed by our public health system. The fathers/partners are encouraged to remain with the mother throughout the hospital stay (they gave me a cot beside her hospital bed). The baby was never taken from our sight. I gave him his first bath, they administered vitamin K shots in the birthing room in front of me, they asked my wife as she was checking in whether she wanted the baby placed on her after the birth or not, and as soon as he was born, asked if she wanted to try and nurse him. We were also told that if I needed to leave, and she needed to sleep, she could ring the nurse and our son would be placed in the nursery until we could care for him again. All in all, it was a wonderful experience.

Granted, 10 years ago, when our daughter was born, it was a different story, but the hospitals here have definitely progressed.

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