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September 25, 2013

The Birth Experience

by Angel Pumila

The Birth Experience

Norms surrounding childbirth vary from culture to culture.  For example, in many tribal communities, childbirth is a public ritual in which a “mother gives birth in full view of the entire community, including small children” (Berk, 2008, p129).  In more industrialized parts of the world, women privately give birth with medical assistance in a hospital setting.  These norms do vary as popularity in natural or home delivery gain popularity.

It has been found that social support plays a role in the outcome of childbirth as well.  “Guatemalan mothers who received doula support also interacted more positively with their babies after delivery, talking, smiling, and gently stroking” (Berk, 2008, p130: Kennell et al., 1991; Sosa et al., 1980).  These mothers that are supported by a friend, relative, or birth attendant tend to have less occurrences of cesarean deliveries and are better able to tolerate the pain involved with delivery.

Childbirth does come with risks to both mother and child.  Medications such as anesthetics are widely given to mothers during childbirth to reduce pain.  When passed through the placenta, these drugs can cause the baby to be born irritable, sleepy, feed slower and have lower Apgar scores (Berk, 2009).  Additional risks occur when instruments such as forceps or vacuums are used to extract the child during delivery.  Although the speed of delivery is increased, torn tissues in the mother, bleeding in the child’s skin, and even brain damage has been shown to happen with these methods.

These methods, along with induced labor and cesarean delivery, are decided upon in an as-needed basis based upon many factors.  Babies found in a breech position or with placenta problems are often born by cesarean delivery.  Over time this surgical procedure has becoming increasingly safer, but requires a longer recovery time.  With induced labor, medication to increase contractions is given and the amnion bag is broken.  This speeds up the labor process, while making it more intense on the mother and possibly creating an “inadequate oxygen supply to the baby” (Berk, 2008, p134).

The birth of a new baby can occur in many different ways, with many different outcomes.  Each variable is as complex and the growing fetus itself.  From public natural births with cultural support to a private hospital setting under medical control, cultural norms influence the type of birth, level of interventions, and overall outcome as the baby first enters into the world.

References

Berk, L. E. (2008). Infants, children, and adolescents. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education. ISBN: 9780205511389.

Kennell, J. H., Klaus, M., McGrath, S., Robertson, S., & Hinkley, C. (1991). Continuous emotional support during labor in a U.S. hospital. Journal of the American Medical Association, 265, 2197-2201.

Sosa, R., Kennell, J., Klaus, M., Robertson, S., & Urrutia, J. (1980). The effect of a supportive companion on perinatal problems, length of labor, and mother-infant interaction.  New England Journal of Medicine, 303, 597-600.

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