The May/June issue of the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health is a special issue on the topic of “normal” birth. It begins with an editorial that recognizes the problems inherent in that term, asking, “It is a word that dichotomizes—if you are not ‘normal,’ then you must be abnormal, atypical, disordered, unhealthy, or irregular—and who wants those labels?”
The author of the editorial, Holly Powell Kennedy, CNM, PhD, goes on to summarize her view of the problem with our current approaches to birth:
I suggest that our culture has situated childbirth fully in risk and normalized childbirth interventions. It is a paradox in which tremendous resources are poured into preventing rare events rather than supporting most women to avail themselves of resources to sustain and improve their health. Fear of birth has become the foundation of childbearing in US culture…We live in a society where women are likely to have heard only birth stories that include epidurals and cesareans. It is a culture that deifies technology and control, with no room for uncertainty of any kind or for less than perfect outcomes…We have boxed ourselves into a corner and must, for the health of women and infants, find a way out.
Other articles in this special issue address midwifery, the case for VBAC, Dutch and English systems of maternity care, labor pain, approaches to “normal” birth, collaboration among care providers, lessons to be learned from home birth, and related topics.
The whole issue is interesting reading for folks interested in midwifery and birth; if you’ve read any of the articles and want to discuss them, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!