On cesareans, measurements, and people in my neighbourhood
I think it’s time I start posting some of the pregnancy and birth information I’ve been collecting— it’s a big gap in this site, since I write mostly about my own experiences and I’ve never been pregnant. But I’m interested in pregnancy and birth, especially in the rising rates of cesarean deliveries and the increasing pressures against women delivering vaginally.
- The excellent Belly Tales blog has a good critical overview of unnecessary cesareans, from a midwife’s perspective.
- I’ve previously posted about the New Yorker piece on the industrialization of birth, which is more in depth and a bit more sympathetic to cesareans. Or at least resigned.
- Darkdaughta posted her radically pro-vaginal delivery birth plan, which includes an anti-oppression political analysis of unnecessary cesareans and medicalized birth (site includes nude photos).
- The photo above is from Flickr, via ch.am.p.
There are two big buzzwords behind the trend toward more cesarean surgeries— quantification and professionalization— that I’ve followed through lots of other areas of sexuality and reproduction, so it’s very interesting to see them play out in birth as well. These are probably my two favourite books about medicalization of sex and reproduction; I’m looking for a favourite book about medicalized birth. (Tips?)
- Sex Is Not a Natural Act by Lenore Tiefer is a great overview of quantification and professionalization of sexuality, with short essays covering everything from the construction of performance standards for sexual pleasure to the medicalization of sexuality and the invention of sexual dysfunction.
- Eve’s Herbs by John Riddle (see my review) is a history of birth control and abortion drugs in the west that includes a great discussion of the professionalization of reproduction and fertility.
There are lots of other processes at work, but quantification and professionalization are on my mind. Yesterday I talked to a reporter about the pitfalls of describing sexual experiences by counting and rating orgasms (or, say, measuring pelvic vascular function) and ignoring larger experiences. That’s not so different from rating births by measuring newborn health or legal risks while ignoring women’s and families’ experiences.
Yesterday I also talked to a priest about how hard it is to prevent any profession from turning into a self-perpetuating authority (he was lamenting hierarchies in his church, I was lamenting the medicalization of sex and the spread of expert sex). That’s not so different from the transfer of expertise and control from women and mothers to doctors and birth professionals.
A reporter and a priest? Maybe today I will talk to a butcher and a baker, and complete my collection of People In My Neighbourhood (and my vague map of how everything can be connected together with vaginas).
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