Thursday, January 18, 2007

What is normal birth?

Search on "normal birth" in Google and you will find several pages of midwifery and natural childbirth websites. Clearly, many midwives and natural childbirth advocates think they know what constitutes "normal" birth.

However, the use of the term "normal" is a two edged sword. On one side, it denotes, or claims to denote, birth as it occurs in nature. On the other side, it is a term of judgment, since anything that is not "normal" is necessarily abnormal. I suspect that this dual meaning is not coincidental. It is a not so subtle means of condemning women who do not have or do not believe in "normal" birth.

Is "normal birth" a real, physiologic phenomenon that can be defined solely in reference to natural body function? Or, alternatively, is "normal birth" an arbitrary designation chosen by some midwives and natural childbirth purely to elevate their personal preferences above those of everyone else? Are births that do not conform to the definition "abnormal"?
Is a baby born of a "not normal" birth a normal baby or an abnormal baby? Are women who have "not normal" births normal women or abnormal women?

Are breech or twins normal, since they occur spontanously in nature, or abnormal, since they are relatively rare?

Is postpartum hemorrhage normal, since it is so common? Is death in childbirth normal since it, too, is quite common?

What is the actual definition of "normal" birth?

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