Friday, June 16, 2006

The troubling moral implications of "natural" birth

Dr. MacDonald (in Gender Expectations: Natural Bodies and Natural Births in the New Midwifery in Canada) goes beyond discussing whether "natural" childbirth is truly natural to talk about the moral implications of a designation such as "natural" or "normal" birth:

The inevitability that some women will fail in the goal to birth naturally - at home, without drugs, without interventions, and without screaming in pain - is one reason that ... many midwives prefer to avoid defining natural birth.
She quotes Helene Michie and Naomi Cahn(Unnatural Births: Cesariean Sections in the Discourse of the Natural Childbirth Movement, 2000). "The idiom of nature sets limits" not only in terms of defining acceptable ways to give birth but also in terms of motherhood and gendered identity.

Dr. Macdonald agrees:

Thus, the pursuit of natural birth veils a troubling moral system underlying its visual and conceptual imagery.
This is what I have been trying to get at in my posts about how the natural childbirth and homebirth movements often sublty or not so subtly demean women who give birth in ways that advocates do not find personally acceptable. This would be objectionable even if we were to agree on a definition of "natural" or "normal" birth, but it is especially distasteful when the definition is purely arbitrary.

Labels: ,

0 Old Comments: