Sojourners Magazine: December 2010
Giving birth is perhaps the most singular, unique, remarkable, and miraculous event in a mother's life -- and at the same time one of the most universal of human experiences, with more than 6 billion occurrences in our lifetime alone.
In the United States, the process of childbirth has become more and more "medicalized" over the past half century. As our authors explain, birthing a child has come to be seen by the medical establishment as a process to be managed—almost as if pregnancy were an illness or a medical condition to cure -- rather than an act of human participation in God's creativity. This trend is perhaps best exemplified by the alarming growth in C-sections, which now constitute almost a third of U.S. births -- for women under 25, the rate of C-sections has increased 57 percent from 2000 to 2007. (The World Health Organization warns that C-section rates above 15 percent tend to result in more harm than good.)
While medical attention is obviously needed in some cases, many feel the pendulum has swung too far. The process of childbirth for many has been wrenched away from the woman at the center and the community surrounding her, and into the hands of institutions and establishments whose approach often seems to favor an almost industrial efficiency over what is best for mother and child.
But that is changing, as women across the country are building a movement of mothers, midwives, and doulas, home births, birth centers, and birthing rooms -- a spiritual movement for justice that recognizes the intrinsic sacredness of childbirth.