I'm surprised how often "these days" or "today" are popping up in this thread.
When I had ds1 in 1993, everybody went to the doctor (GP, not an OB...I have the impression that Canada's medical system isn't quite as specialist oriented as in the US - don't know anybody who has a pediatrician, either). Midwifery wasn't even legal here for another year. When my mom had my brother, in 1963, you did what the doctor said - no questions (mom questioned, but it didn't get her very far). The 1940s...twilight sleep. The "do what the doctor tells you and your baby will be okay" attitude is hardly a new thing.
We notice it, because this is a natural-birth focused community, because certain interventions (induction and c-section come to mind, in particular) are drastically increasing, and because we're exposed to a different focus than many (most?) moms are. But, how much worse is it, in other ways? I don't think we have anything close to the episiotomy rate we used to have. Nobody is taking Thalidomide in 2009.
I think this problem has been around for a long time, and, if anything, it's just becoming more polarized, partly because of the growing interest in natural childbirth, homebirth, midwifery care, etc.
I think the biggest issue isn't even the medpros (and they're not my favourite group of people). It's the culture. Many of us have commented on the way birth is portrayed in the media. That goes back a long way. How many children in literature have been orphaned, because mom conveniently died in childbirth? How many women in tv shows and movies are depicted as howling, irrational, pain-maddened animals? (Sometimes, I think comedies are the worst.)
Then, there's the pressure from family and friends to just do what the doctor tells you. There's the cultural belief that if a baby dies in the hospital, it was unavoidable, and everything possible was done...but if it happens at home, then a hospital and OB could have prevented it.
There's pressure. There's fear. You know...I sincerely hope that, if dd decides to have children, she goes the midwifery route - and preferably a homebirth. But...she lost her baby brother in a homebirth attempt when she was 4 years old. How much impression does that leave? No matter how much research one does, there are always going to be the social and emotional issues to wrap around it.
Heck - I'm going back into the hospital this time, and it's mostly because I'm afraid that something will go wrong again, and I've lost all faith in my body's ability to give birth. Personally, I think that's because of the medpro's, but it is what it is...and if something does go wrong, there won't be anybody pointing a finger at me and saying "it's your fault - you were irresponsible". That happens when you buck the trend. I think it's says a lot more about the nasty, small-minded kind of person who could blame and punish someone for a terrible loss than it does about the mom's birth choices...but, believe me, having people blame you and shun you for losing a child is painful - very painful.
I was told by a woman in my choir, two days ago, that her sister swears by c-sections and says they're the way to go.
I really think it's kind of condescending to just say, "oh, she listens to her OB, because she's too lazy to do the research". When you have no real life support (and even if you do), stepping outside the boundaries of "normal" is hard. Doing it while you're pregnant - tired, emotionally vulnerable, concerned about your baby, etc. etc. - is even more so, ime.
There's also the incredible value we place on book learning. The OB has studied all this stuff. He/she has a degree in this stuff. It's very hard for some people to put their own gut instincts and research (probably only a few months worth) up against the pros. If we want to know the legal way to handle something, we get a lawyer. If we want to know the tax advantages to a financial decision, we consult an accountant. If we have a leaky pipe, we call a plumber. If our car is making funny noises, we see a mechanic. People are used to trusting the experts...and birth is no different.
OBs don't, ime, inform patients about risks and benefits. (I've had four c-sections, and I've never had a medpro inform me of any risk to the surgery. It's always been presented as 100% safe, and as a guarantee of a healthy mom and a healthy baby. My own objections have been dismissed with "we just want a healthy mom and a healthy baby". There's no information on risks - none.) The oh-so-experienced OB tells the first-time mom - who may have listened her whole life to her own mom's horror story about a painful birth with a big baby - that the baby is "too big" and it's not safe to birth, so a c-section is necessary. It's really not hard to understand why she listens, yk?