Obstetric Lie # 95- Birth Is A Disease

Imagine it:

You are a skilled race car driver. You have worked for years to hone your skills. You have a fast car. It is the best. It has a big engine. You even have driving gloves and a helmet, a race track, all the bells and whistles. But....you only get to go fast when you REALLY have too. Mostly, you just get to sit around and watch people drive by in their Volvos.

Now imagine you are a skilled surgeon. You went to school for years and years. You have a doctorate. You have some serious debt. You have lots of knowledge about pathology- in particular all the things that could possibly go wrong with a laboring woman. You are well trained to spot those many things. And yet.....most of the time you just have to sit around and watch people push out their babies with little or no trouble AT ALL.


Does this sound like a recipe for disaster to anybody else but me?

Birth As Pathology

"Pathology is the study and diagnosis of disease. The word pathology is from Greek πάθος, pathos, "feeling, suffering""; (Via Wikipedia)

Think about this for a moment. Disease. Suffering. When we surround the primal and normal act of birth with these words we fundamentally change it.

When we surround a laboring and birthing woman with people who are deeply committed to the study of said disease and suffering we fundamentally change that birth.

"...because physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women. "
Ina May Gaskin

You can find obstetricians, midwives, men, women, mothers, fathers, television producers, even children today who believe, deeply and emphatically that birth is a disease. They believe that birth is inherently dangerous.

This sentiment, that birth is inherently pathological is so deeply inherent in our culture today that it is often not even questioned. It is so large and pervasive that we could even say that the pathological model of birth is in fact a national paradigm.

I have heard five year old children, when asked about how babies are born say that , "Mommy goes to the hospital and they cut it out of her stomach." This is how deep the vision of abnormal, pathological birth runs in our culture. We believe it before we even understand how babies are conceived.

But birth is not a pathology.


The fact that people believe that birth is dangerous, pathological and unsafe does not make it so. I repeat- just because everybody accepts this does not make it true.

You can watch on television the celebration of birth that is considered normal but is in fact NOT NORMAL. All around us we see "proof" that birth is dangerous, scary, and must be controlled by knife wielding experts who have most often NEVER even had a vagina, much less pushed a baby out of one.

But this is not proof at all. The prevalence of this idea is not proof of it. It is simply proof that we have accepted as fact something that is false.


We must shift this paradigm. We must. We can not live in a culture where it is accepted that women are generally incapable of a basic biological function. To accept this atrocity not only damages the birth experience of women, but it damages the national perception of femininity. It hurts the value of women, motherhood, wisdom and our innate power.

We can not stand for this. We can not accept it.

We can not watch shows that support and encourage this anti-female, anti-normal, and false perception of our abilities and our womanhood. We can not give our money to men and women who believe this. We can not birth in their hospitals. To do so is to feed the system of misogyny and fund the very tyrants who abuse women for profit.

We can do this. We can envision normal birth again and then we can make it happen. It will be a slow process and it will be scary. Why? Because first we must face our own fears. We must accept our own power and our own responsibility. We must walk away from institutions. We must birth normally. We must be radical

But it is not radical to believe in a woman's ability to birth without pathology. It is normal, right and intuitive. It is however different and it requires a leap of faith. Take that leap. This change will only begin with us.


Bravo!!! I absolutely love this post! Thanks for speaking the truth.
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ahodges said…
I wonder what (or who) it would take for a channel like TLC to do a show that focused on midwives, doulas, home birth, etc. Frankly, I think a lot of people would watch out of sheer curiosity.

If they could address the topic in a non-judgmental way it could really benefit a lot of people.

Who knows? Perhaps we will see something like that in the future. Hell, if Ricki Lake was able to make BBB, it might be possible for another famous mom to pitch a show.

One can hope!
Mara said…
My favorite post so far! Thank you for your eloquent writing and knowledge. My passion is helping others find their way to natural birth, for I believe so much that is wrong with our culture/society/etc. could be changed if babies were born naturally.
Once again, I love it!

My first birth was a highly managed hospital birth and my second birth was an intervention-free home birth. Once I took "the leap" to fully realize that birth is a normal (albeit, painful...) function of a woman's body, it is impossible to look back.

Thank you for being such an eloquent ambassador of a woman's natural ability to give birth to the baby she cultivated from seed.
LOVE this!! I wanted a scheduled c-section until I watched The Business of Being Born. We need to make the truth available to every woman!
tabitha said…
This post moves me so much, because I have known intuitively for years this was so, but did not have the eloquence to speak it. I have known in the center of my being that the American way of birth was anti woman and anti child and anti family.That it goes beyond safety and and choice into the deeper psychological realm of fear surrounding birth. I know too many women who feel certain that they cannot give birth vaginally and that they cannot breastfeed. It has created this us versus them mentality in womens circles, and feelings of guilt surrounding birth choices. It is a horrible climate to give birth in and i fear for my daughters