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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Episode 100 (Epilogue): Pregnancy and Birth Ritual

Birth in the News:

Midwifery Led Continuity of Care Linked to Lower Risk of Premature Birth 

Restricting Food and Drink During Labor Found Unwarranted 

In this episode, Maternally Yours explored different rituals practiced around the world for women in their child bearing years and reflected upon childbirth rituals in America.

We spoke to Midwife and 2011 CNN Hero of the Year, Robin Lim who founded Yayasan Bumi Sehat  in 1995, an Indonesian not-for-profit organization. "Ya ya san" means not-forprofit, "Bumi" means Earth-Mother, and "Sehat" translates as Healthy. Thus she began the Healthy Mother Earth Foundation in response to an overwhelming need for improved maternal health care in Indonesia.

In Bali, childbirth is celebrated by families and women receive help from other mothers after the birth. To support Robin’s ongoing efforts in Bali please visit

We then spoke to Sandi Blankenship, a Certified Professional Midwife who has worked in the United Arab Emirates, China and Jamaica. In Jamaica, Blankenship said that no families were allowed to be in the hospital. Mothers
would hoist newborns against the hospital windows so that their families could see the babe from the parking lot. More experienced mothers comforted first-time mamas through their childbirth while they were also in labor. Moms would also bind their baby’s abdomen with a string to keep the evil away.

In the Arab Emirates, women eat dates during pregnancy to strengthen their uterus and then during labor for energy. If they are experiencing a slow birth, they often eat cinnamon tea to speed up contractions.

In China, every mom has an entire month off so she can focus entirely on taking care of herself and her baby. Their female relatives do all of their housework for them and prepare them nutritiously rich food made with traditional herbs and chinese medicine.

For the last portion of the show, we spoke to Robbie Davis-Floyd. She said that pioneer women would give birth with the assistance of midwives. If a woman was in labor and there was no midwife nearby all of her female neighbors would come to her house. Davis-Floyd said that it was basically a party that celebrated female closeness and friendship.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s scientists began to look at the human body as a mechanical thing detached from nature. This was when authoritative knowledge about childbirth first came into fruition. Female bodies were viewed as defective to male bodies. They became viewed as dysfunctional, pathological machines and childbirth became a life process in need of medical intervention.

Over a century ago, obstetricians took over birth and moved 99% of birth into the hospital. Birth became a process of production. In hospitals, the focus is on the product -- producing a healthy child through childbirth rather than making it a healthy, natural experience for the mother and the baby. Standard procedures and standard routines are performed on mothers with no scientific reasoning. These procedures become rituals which are enforced to make the obstetrician feel better about attending birth. “The more procedures the do, the more power they have,” Davis-Floyd said.

 Most of her published articles are freely available on her website

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