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Are we still blaming women for the outcomes of childbirth?

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Are we still blaming women for the outcomes of childbirth?


Reality Rounds asked this last week in the post “When Birth is Not Beautiful.” Navelgazing Midwife let me post her response to the question here.


If women don’t eat right, if they don’t exercise, if they are the wrong race, if her uterus ruptures trying to have a VBAC, if she hemorrhages during a chosen cesarean, if her blood pressure rises, if she wants more than a couple of children, if she won’t accept blood, if she’s young, if she’s old, if she needs medical assistance to get pregnant, if she needs to be induced, if she goes into pre-term labor, if she has a miscarriage, if she’s infertile, if she has an abortion, if she gives the baby up for adoption, if she births at home in the water, if she births in the hospital, if she never reads a book about childbirth, if she reads everything about childbirth, if she lives in Africa, if she lives in Haiti, if she lives in the Netherlands, if she lives in Harlem, if she lives in Los Angeles, if she’s here illegally, if she hires a doula, if she hires a nanny, if she plans on breastfeeding, if she refuses to breastfeed, if she was sexually abused, if she’s single, if she’s short, if she’s skinny, if she’s fat, if she’s rich, if she’s poor, if she’s depressed, if she’s shackled, if she has a baby born with defects, if she’s screaming, if she’s silent, if she has a birth plan, if she doesn’t have a birth plan, if she has an epidural, if she’s birth traumatized, if she’s birth abused, if she’s birthraped, if she’s cut open, if she has an episiotomy, if she hires a doctor, if she hires a midwife, if she births unassisted… if she was born with the potential to birth a child… it is always her fault. No matter what happens in birth, it is always her fault.



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Reader Comments (12)

beautifully written - and very true - and it is something that we all do at one point - some just will never admit to it.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersandi

Perfectly stated and you're right, while mothers talk about their birth stories, the analytical side says what if... This side of me can always be unintentionally judgmental. That being said, I judge my own birth the hardest.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOur Sentiments

Completely true; I have seen women scrutinized for any and all of these things when discussing a birth outcome.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

well said. And it isn't just the outcome of the birth. We are blamed for the health of the child too. My son was born with a birth defect in his eye that the doctor said nothing I did or could have done would have changed anything. He said you have to chalk that specific defect up to 'with all the things nature & a woman's body must do to create a child it is a wonder things don't go wrong more often'. Yet, if you ask my mother in law she will tell you how it is all my fault. Her & her high school diploma apparently know more than the pediatric eye specialist with years & years of schooling & almost 2 decades of experience.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRacheal


April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermamaraby

Very true, and unfortunate.

Western culture and medicine view the female body as a defective machine and dangerously under the influence of nature. "Obstetrics was thereby enjoined from its beginnings to develop tools and technologies for the manipulation and improvement of the inherently defective and therefore anomalous dangerous process of birth." (Robbie Davis Floyd)

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily, Anthro Doula

I would say this is one more manifestation of victim-blaming in a culture that's rampant with it.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRy

Well said. As someone who is currently considering whether to have more children (I want more!) after having one unnecesarean and one failed VBAC c-section (emergent but not due to rupture), I am also considering HOW to have that child. And even my own thoughts are judgmental towards myself. If I have a VBA2C and I rupture (at home, because I cannot have a VBA2C in the hospital where I live) then I feel it will be my fault for choosing homebirth when I could have had a c-section in the hospital. And yet, the overall risks to me are greater with c-section, so what if something happens to me because I went with the medically recommended decision? Either way, I feel the weight of the choice bringing me down--I cannot control what happens in either situation but somehow it will be my fault if something bad happens.

So we even blame ourselves. At least, I do.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathie

It's always easier to blame the individual woman than the larger context.

For example, here's a study abstract suggesting that the lower the birth rate, the more c-sections are performed - making up the financial shortfall for doctors as a result of fewer births:

" The results also suggest an increase in cesarean section procedures by 4.1 percentage points for one unit decline in the birth rate per 100 population"

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterQoB

NGM left out the bit that defensive medicine and the high cesarean rate is the fault of women too since we hold practitioners responsible for malpractice and sometimes sue.

April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndAnon
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