Childbirth is considered an immensely important but also distinctively painful and challenging experience. There is a hypothesis associated with childbirth becoming more complicated for humans when they began farming. Without the lack of available medical solutions, childbirth in the past was challenged by improper handling and the absence of knowledge as to how to carry out the procedure properly. Not only were there the risks associated with getting a child to emerge but also the threats of an infection called childbed fever that could also set in and kill a new mother and her child within several days.
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Throughout the history of childbirth in the developed world, women had to rely on one another or midwives; therefore, the birth was a social event. When a child was being born, women were often surrounded by friends and relatives in order to provide support and guidance during the hard times. Importantly, doctors did not offer much help because of the lack of knowledge about female autonomy. As suggested by Belsky, doctors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often made manners worse because of their clumsiness and the tendency to spread infection by failing to wash their hands (61). Even though toward the late nineteenth century, the techniques of child delivery improved, few women were willing to go to hospitals to give birth because the institutions were hotbeds for contagious diseases. Only after the conquest of many infectious diseases at the beginning of the 1900s, it became trendy for wealthy and middle-class women to have “modern” hospital births (Belsky 61). Around the late 1930s, obstetrics as a science developed to the desired level, which led to the reduction of infant mortality rates and birth becoming genuinely. By the 1950s, in the developed world, the war against infections and other barriers preventing safe delivery was over.
Overall, the long path toward reaching safe births in the developed world reached its end by discontent, and the natural process of birth became an impersonal event. For instance, women protested the procedures at hospitals that were similar to assembly lines, during which they were sedated and strapped down in order to give birth. Self-education was also an essential component of placing childbirth in the category of safe medical procedures that are being carried out with limited complications. In developed countries, women eagerly read the books that described the most contemporary Lamaze techniques, including controlled breathing, the increased involvement of partners, as well as non-sedated births. The natural childbirth movement stemmed from women’s self-education and gained traction in the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s (Belsky 61).
Natural childbirth marks a critical stage in the history of childbirth in the developed world, representing the return to birth in its true natural state. In order to avoid giving birth at the hospital, women would choose to stay at home or deliver in home-like centers for birth. The options have broadened with the availability of new solutions and procedures. For instance, women could choose certified midwives to assist them during help instead of doctors or opt for the help of doulas, non-medical labor and pregnancy coaches. The most natural option for women is to give birth in their usual setting, at home, but it has both advantages and disadvantages to the process.
The cesarean section (C-section) marks another important stage in the history of childbirth, with the operation’s popularity exploding throughout the 1970s. The operation is carried out through a surgeon making an incision in the abdominal wall of the women giving birth and removing the baby manually. C-section became the ultimate solution to the problems that occur during the process of delivery. By 2015, there was 1 in 3 deliveries carried out through the cesarean section in the United States (Belsky 62). In Shanghai, China, where the one-child policy made women eager to have a perfect delivery and a perfect child, the percentage of C-section deliveries is 50% (Belsky 62). The procedure is considered very convenient because it is planned and it is possible both for the mother and the physician to know the possible complications as well as avoid the risks associated with vaginal birth. However, what women fail to account for is that the C-section is more dangerous than a natural birth because it involves a surgical intervention that implies a range of potential risks.
It is notable that cesarean section is also used as an answer to problems that have begun during natural labor. Therefore, even in cases when a woman is prepared for giving birth naturally, a C-section is always an option in cases if something goes wrong. It is important to understand that even the best-laid birth plans can have their complications, and women should not get upset about not being able to have a child “the natural way” (Belsky 62). Overall, the history of childbirth in the developed world shows that progress in the area of labor and delivery was linked to the need of meeting the demand for safe childbirth that is not challenged by complications, both for mothers and their infants.
Belsky, Janet. Experiencing the Lifespan. 15th ed., Worth Publishers, 2018.
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