Monday, July 10, 2006

Natural childbirth: the myth of being more educated and therefore superior

As part of researching material for Homebirth Debate, I routinely visit other blogs, forums and advocacy sites. One thing I have noticed is the repeated mention that natural childbirth advocates are more educated than other mothers and the implication or outright assertion that this makes them superior to other mothers.

This seems to be a rather elitist view of parenting. It's pretty clear that women with greater education and greater financial resources are more likely to read about any subject than women who are less educated or less well off. Should we conclude, therefore, that a white, middle class, college educated mother who has read many books about child psychology and attachment parenting is superior to a Haitian mother who cleans hotel rooms, and therefore has no time to read such books? I don't think so.

Similarly, women who are natural childbirth or homebirth advocates are overwhelming white, well educated and relatively well off. They read about many things and childbirth is just one of them. Surely that's a good thing. I can't figure out, though, why that should make them better mothers. There is an underlying edge of contempt when many natural childbirth advocates refer to women who don't spend time and money (which they may not have) to "educate" themselves about their "childbirth options".

Finally, if the level of education were an indicator of how prepared or how committed a woman is to mothering, the top of the pecking order would not be natural childbirth advocates, it would be women obstetricians. They are undoubtedly the women who are most educated about childbirth by far. Some female obstetricians choose natural childbirth; most do not. So the bottom line is that choosing natural childbirth does not mean a woman is more educated, and being more educated about birth does not mean that a woman will choose natural childbirth.

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