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Do you think men should supervise birth?

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
I've thought about this time and again for years.

In the industrialized world, men have a starring role regarding female health. Male gynecologists, obstetricians, even midwives (midhusbands?) are everywhere, and have been for over a century.

This persistently gives me...the CREEPS. I often wonder if this is really why our birth system is so draconian. Is this why women go around nowadays feeling like their bodies are too dangerous and mysterious to trust or understand, whether with birth or breastfeeding? Doesn't it seem that a fundamentally pathological attitude towards female health is unavoidable if the group "writing the books" on female health are NOT female??

Is there any historical precendent for men being in charge of birth and female health? Are there any cultures in the past where men domimated the care of women in labor/birth/aftercare?

How do all of you feel about this? Does the idea of male obgyns or midwives feel generally inappropriate to any of you?

I know from what anthropological studies I have seen, men in primitive cultures not only stayed away from birth care, they sometimes were banned from intervening or being witnesses. If anyone got involved, it was always an experienced older woman, or group of female relatives. Frankly, this seems like a pretty sound practice. Of course I support fathers being as involved as the mother wants, but in general, I just think women are wiser and safer and better educated by other women in this area.

Any thoughts?

post #2 of 55
oooooo I have also thought a lot about this. I can't type too much, but I chose midwives for this very reason. I don't believe that men make good birthing attendants. Sorry, it just doesn't work like that. For my dd, the midwife didnt get to the hosp in time, so a dr caught the baby. luckily it was a woman.

also wanted to mention.... have you noticed men take over roles that are historically womens work? delivering babies, teaching, cooking, nursing (not bf)

For example, female nurses, male obs, female teachers, male principles, female waitresses, male chefs, male doctors, female nurses. See what I'm saying? It seems that areas that were always the womens domain are now being overseen by men.

Can't wait to see what direction this conversation will go. But, definately, not comfortable with a man delivering my babies.

post #3 of 55
Birth is a normal and private body function. Not only do I not feel the need for anyone to help me with it, it would be inhibiting for for me (and therefore a hindrance to the process itself) to have someone try. And I do not believe that it is necessary in most cases to have someone fiddling around "down there", watching, manipulating, and at last delivering. And if it's not necessary, what the hell for? This is my body, and the most private part of my body, I don't want it being treated like a piece of meat, with me having to pretend that it's somehow okay simply because the person watching me happens to know something (though probably much less than myself) about the birth process.

However, if it was an emergency situation and help was necessary, I would much prefer (all other things being equal) that it be a woman helping me. Some vestige of modesty, I guess. Although I have to say that though I have met few medical professionals that were actually true *healers*, the ones that were were all women.
post #4 of 55
Thread Starter 
jtsmom, glad to hear someone else is just as bothered by this. You are SO right about men always taking the *highest* position nowadays in area's that women traditionally excelled in (cooking, cleaning, child rearing). I thought about that before too!!

I mean, how many professions are there nowadays where women are truly considered *the BEST* by society. At the moment I can't think of any!

Sweetwater, your preaching to the choir

I share many of your sentiments, and STRONGLY prefered not to be touched or *guided* in any way by the midwife when in labor. I felt I did not need or want that kind of help. But, historically women do tend to have some kind of attendant, not in every culture, but in most I've heard. And it's always been a woman who attended, and nobody even considered men for that role. I don't think it is coincidental that the highest c section rate and the use of drugs and other interventions are most associated with birth cultures run by men.

post #5 of 55
TOTALLY agree.I also chose midwives for this reason.I had a male obgyn with dd#1,and got really sick of him doing internals (he did one every week from 36 wks-I was 19 and knew nothing) and saying "this is a bit uncomfortable" and me thinking how on earth would you know?? Get out of my body!My midwives were soooo much better and I know it's because they were women.Now saying that I know there are exceptions I'm sure -good male dr-bad women dr-but I feel like it should be a women controlled industry (anything to do with womens bodies).I've always wondered what would make a man decide he wants to be a gyny?? Never mind I dont want to know.
post #6 of 55
I totally agree with you Mama's. I think it's high time women reclaimed birthing and midwifery as their own. Would you want a mechanic who never owned a car?
There are a couple of chapters in the beginning of the book Gentle Birth Choices that goes into the history of how birth came to be a male dominated thing. It was interesting and got me quite up in arms when I was pregnant. Of course now i have mommy brain and I can't remember what I read. :
post #7 of 55
Oh my heck......this is soooooooooo one of my biggest irritations!!!!! I have never once been to a male ob/gyn nor will I ever...it feels soooooo wrong for a man to be directing and telling women about something they can NEVER have personal experience with....living in a woman's body and having female genitilia. I feel so sorry for all my friends who have only been to male ob's...........it just feels soooo inherently wrong! This might be going a bit far....but almost like rape. A male (in my opinion) should never have control over female parts in a dominant way. I especially hate the fact that male ob's (and female's too) are so into intervention...telling a woman her body can't do something that his body will never be able to do and trying to take over....almost like HE is the one giving birth. I know I am being a bit extremist here...... but sometimes I feel like male ob's should be outlawed! I know there are plenty of good one's out there...but really......why on earth would a young, college-age man decide he wants to pursue a career where he will spend the rest of his life touching and directing and looking at female private parts???? I just don't understand........
post #8 of 55
I'm not the only one who feels this way!! I'm sure that there are some competent, earthy men out there who are ob's/midhusbands, but for the most part, I cannot understand why a woman would willingly give her power over to a male doctor to control and manipulate. I recently spoke with my sister about this, who said, "God, I think it's normal for men to want to look at females' body parts!! I'd never go to a woman... why is SHE so interested in vaginas and stuff?" AAACKKK!!! What a twisted way to perceive society, and our bodies, in general!!
post #9 of 55
I read a book called Brought to Bed about the history of childbirth in America. It was pertty interesting to see how men and "obstetrics" too k over midwifery. It was sad to see that it was the women of the time who wanted to turn the whole thing over t o men. I am glad there is a resurgance of midwifery today and I am honored that i am a part of it.
I always felt sill y because I have alway s wanted female gyns. How sad it is to me that I felt silly about that. Our yoni and oarts of the like are so special, even sacred I'd say. The medicalization of them is really really sad. There is no respect. I would always choose a female OB or Gyn. However the female OB that "delivered" my first dd didn't have any children and to me that is almost as bad as having a man ob. How does she know how it feels?
I really loved my midwife who I had with Hero. She was very respectful of me and my privacy.
I think this male taking over womens health is just part of the big big problem we have of not respecting women and sex and birth. I really think rape happens more often than it used to because of this lack of respect. i also think teen pregnancy and general "sleeping around"among people are also signs of it.
Anyway, I could go on and on. But bsically I agree that men do not belong in this field. I think women today are pressured to put aside their feelings about their "private parts" and treat them as they would their foot or hand, and that is wrong. We should feel free to choose whoever we want to deal with those areas and not feel bad for not choosing a man.
post #10 of 55
"But, historically women do tend to have some kind of attendant, not in every culture, but in most I've heard."

Yeah, but from what I've read, this kind of attending is very different from modern midwifery, which takes its cues largely from obstetrics. Like the women would sit around and do ritual type stuff, or offer comfort, or whatever. They were also most likely women the laboring woman knew all her life, neighbors, relatives. And most likely they weren't doing dilation checks and giving the laboring woman ultimatums for progress.
post #11 of 55

Heck, I'll be a dissenting opinion...

I basically thought the way you guys did until I had my dd. Afterwards I had a long talk with one of my best friends (female) who is in med school (no kids). She was comparing her experiences helping women in labor to my experience being in labor. And man, she came away just stunned. She said she wished she could go back and re-help all those women because she regretted some of the things she'd said, or done, or assumed. You might say this is because she was trained by the male ob profession, this is true in part, but she was also acting on her own instincts.

On the other hand my dh was amazing, very attentive, caring, worked tirelessly holding me, rubbing my back, etc. And he did better at this than my own mom - just because he's physically stonger, but also because he was able to tune into me more.

So all I'm saying is - it doesn't take a woman to be a good labor coach (should you desire one.) And women don't necessarily make good coaches at all.

I do think the ob professions should be dominated by women, with women's health and the naturalness of childbirth in mind, but if my childless friend could learn to be a caring compassionate coach, and my dh could - then anybody with the intent to learn that could be, male or female. They have to learn from laboring women though - that should be obvious!
post #12 of 55
My good friend e-mailed me the link to this conversation. I'm so glad she did and I know why she did. I am studying to be a Bradley childbirth educator and for one of my projects I interviewed a male midwife. He was very interesting and I think pretty well grounded. My only real problem with him is that he practices alone and I like when midwives are in groups so they have back-ups. I might have a different idea if I didn't have a couple of midwife groups to choose from in a big city.

It is strange. I believe that women have the best chance of being supportive birth partners. However, that does not necessarily make them so. The OB we started our pregnancy with was a woman and she was condescending and dismissive. She had a 95% epidural rate and did routine epis. We moved to a midwife group just for the female support we have been talking about.

Many of the groundbreaking writers and natural birth activists are men, Dr. William Sears, Dr. Michel Odent, Dr. Robert Bradley etc. I think that it is the wholesale medicalization of birth, and the fact that many women act like victims of their Dr's or Midwives that has brought us to this place. The idea that women are inherently broken, other, not right, weak, unable to birth without assistance has been bred into our western culture for a number of generations now.

Men, by and large, are problem solvers. They want fix any problems they find and if women suffer under the idea that they and their pregnancy is a problem, men and women of the medical mind with try to fix them with drugs and operations.

Women have been socialized to think of themselves as the "other", you know, not quite right; not a part of culture. I think it has a lot to do with the historical view of a male God, and the female as the sinful "other". Man is made in the image of God. Not in the Creator's bodily image though. God is a spirit. How can It be male or female. It's like my husband, who talked me into a homebirth by the way (Thank you, thank you honey), says, "Can you really visualize God with a penis?"

post #13 of 55
Wanted to respond to Saiges ob doing pelvic exams each week for 4 weeks. I was scared of this with #1 pg, had heard all my friends mention how uncomfortable this was. How relieved was I when the midwives said, "Why would I check your cervix? The baby will be here soon, it doesn't take a pelvic to know that!":


Other than that, I just wanted to say:"AMEN SISTERS!"
post #14 of 55
Of course I don't mind having my husband around, but I will never have a male Dr, nurse, midwife, or male anything else poking around at my vagina. Women only, thank you.

There is a part of my mom's birth story that really makes my skin crawl. She planed to go natural. I was posterior. She pushed for a long time. Flat on her back. She was never allowed to get up or move around or anything. Her male Dr came in and decide to go in with forceps to turn me. He cut a HUGE episiotomy. From her vagina all the way through her sphincter muscle. As he was sewing her up he jokingly said, "Well, you're going to remember me in the morning!"

To me, that is the most disgusting and insensitive thing I have ever heard. It seems horrible for a doctor to mutilate a woman's body and then laugh as he puts her back together. My mom, on the other hand, doesn't see anything wrong with it. I really feel sorry for her for her experience. She thinks that thats just the way things should be.
post #15 of 55
That's horrid and disgusting what he said.

By the way,my midwife was horrified that my obgyn had done those exams-she couldn't figure out why he would do them.And I truly believed I didnt have a choice! How disturbing is that??
post #16 of 55
My midwife didn't even SEE my vagina until 2 weeks before I gave birth. she asked me if she could ceck it out real quick so she would know what she was working with.
post #17 of 55
I agree that women should be the main players in women's health. But, I have known a lot of women who visited female ob/gyn's only to find them more insensitive than the males they had seen. One of my mom's friends is going through this right now. I have only had a male doctor look at my vagina once, when I was pregnant with my daughter. I go to a practice where there are 3 midwives who take care of pregnant women most of the time, and a male doctor who advises them on difficult cases. My cervix was thinning at 20 weeks, so he examined me and discussed whether or not I would want a cerclage. We decided not to have one, and he was very supportive. I really appreciated his advice, and expertise in more difficult pregnancies.
Historically, it was not until fairly recently that men were even allowed in births. I read in one book that in the 17th century, I think, a male doctor dressed as a woman to watch a birth, and when he was discovered, he was burnt at the stake.
post #18 of 55
I don't think men should have a "supervisory" role in the birth process.

I don't think their temperments are designed for it. They're way too impatient & have to DO SOMETHING. They can't just chill and let birth take its natural course, they need to hurry-it-up and do something, ANYTHING, rather than wait.

They also have this crazy notion that they can do BETTER than Nature. They're nuts about "improving" on Nature's Way. Silly, misguided guys.

I agree that we have the multitude of interventions today because of the introduction of men into the birth chambers.
post #19 of 55
This discussion has gone in an interesting direction. I think I said before that other things being equal I'd be more comfortable with a woman rather than a man attending me in birth. Of course, rarely in life is anything equal. It's true, as one poster mentioned, that men tend to be of the mindset that they have to do something. Not good. It's also true, as another mentioned, that female OBs are often as bad or worse than men. It's like they feel like they have something to prove. Also, a female birth attendant that has had a birth herself has a very personal idea of what birth should be, and she may project that onto her client. I've had a couple of birth attendants who did just that, believing that I was over-reacting because it hadn't been that bad for them when they gave birth.

So yeah, it really has to be taken on an individual basis. But in the abstract, if somebody really has to be peering at my crotch, having a woman do so feels less weird to me. It may not be rational, after all it's weird to have any person you're not normally intimate with fiddling around down there. But I know myself, and I know that given a nice female OB vs. a nice male OB, I'd tense up far less having to spread my legs for the woman. It shouldn't matter, perhaps, but it does. My brain might say, "hey this is really okay, really it is!", but my body would protest.

That said, if I were in a situation in which I needed support (and I do much prefer to give birth without a birth partner or coach,) I'd take my husband over anyone, any day. As my lover and best friend, the person that I am physically and emotionally closest to, he has quite a bit to offer me that no other man or woman does.
post #20 of 55
I cannot think of anything scarier than trusting a man with my body, my health, and my life. On my birth plan I wrote "I WILL NOT ALLOW ANY MEN OTHER THAN MY PARTNER INTO THE ROOM!"

Men know nothing about what it is like to be a woman. They may have an understanding of how a woman's body functions, but that simply is not enough. I think men go into the OB/GYN field to act out their hatred for women.

This is why I do not follow the instructions of Bradley, Lamaze, or Dick-Read - they are men! Also, I don't understand why Braxton-Hicks contractions were named after the male doctor who "discovered" them, rather than the woman who experienced them. Braxton-Hicks discovered the contractions the way Columbus discovered America, which means he didn't.

Men make the rules in the obstetrical community which lead to death and serious injury. Men invented Cytotec and Pitocin. It was men who decided that babies are better off when they are separated from their mothers immediately after birth.

I wouldn't trust a male doctor with my jacket, let alone the life of my child.
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