Birth: An Instinctual Process
Today, hospital births have become so much the norm that it can be difficult to believe that, prior to the 20th century, birth was seen as a natural event - although not without pain or risk. A young woman would have likely been present at family births and subsequently when her time came to give birth, she naturally followed her own instincts and the physiological wisdom of her body. Trust was mixed with a healthy respect for the risks involved. Our predecessors, and women in many other cultures around the world today, knew what science has proven to be true - that labor engenders a state of consciousness that brings a woman extra strength and endurance and makes it possible for even a rather frail woman to deliver a baby unassisted and without any drugs stronger than herbs.
In medicalizing childbirth and removing it from the home, in separating it from the family, our culture has made birth, like death, a fearful ordeal that can be dealt with only by trained experts, that is no longer part of our shared lives, and is out of woman's control. - Sheila Kitzinger
Much childbirth education reinforces this fear. Entering a modern hospital maternity and newborn unit today, it is apparent that the unit is not organized to support the laboring woman and her baby in doing what nature has designed them to do, but to treat them as, in the words of Suzanne Arms, "potential in jeopardy."
Almost inevitably concern for the smooth functioning of any bureaucratic organization means that the needs and wishes of patients will often be ignored. Most women find they are required to comply with hospital protocols regarding care and rules laid down by obstetricians. On hospital territory, patients may be allowed choice but no real power. The territory belongs to staff and hospital management.
In America, birth has become a technological, profit-making event. Pregnancy is quite literally treated as a disease, with technological delivery the final remedy of that disease. Failure to submit to the medical machinations for childbirth can result in criminal negligence charges, or prosecution for practicing medicine (healing the disease of pregnancy) without a license. - Joseph Chilton Pearce