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Pathologizing pregnancy: it’s just good business

Pathologizing pregnancy: it’s just good business

If medical practitioners can turn a normal event into an illness, there’s money to be made.

May 6, 2010 10:11 by

Expat residents of the UAE are returning to their home countries in order to deliver their babies at home, because the government – presumably fearing for the welfare of mothers and infants – “discourages” home birth, according to a report by The National.

Citing lack of emergency services and infrastructure, delivery at home is frowned upon, and midwives are permitted to practice only in hospitals. The whole matter begs the question: does the government of the UK, for example, care less for maternal and infant welfare?

That’s doubtful. So, is there another reason behind this? Could it be that the financial interests of the medical community are not served by legal, safe, and rewarding homebirths?

In the US, this debate is not a new one. The profit-driven healthcare sector underpins what skeptical observers term “pathologizing” – that is, turning a natural human condition into an illness requiring medical intervention. Critics contend that big profits for doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies led to the pathologizing of pregnancy, delivery, menopause, and old age. In an effort to make ever-increasing amounts of expensive medical intervention the norm, home birth has come to be regarded as unusual and ‘dangerous’ by many. Doctors are often offended and condescending when asked by patients about the possibility of delivering at home.

However, the data on home birth does not necessarily support the notion that it is inherently dangerous. And developed nations with well-established practices of home birth can cite superior statistics on infant mortality and maternal wellness, along with a far lower incidence of caesarean section.

The choice to deliver a baby in the privacy and intimacy of one’s own home should not be a matter for government legislation. And if the medical establishment and public policy makers fear for the health and safety of citizens, there are a million other areas of healthcare that require intrusive legislation. Has anyone read the latest statistics on obesity and diabetes in the Middle East…?

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  1. Miss Anne Thropic on May 10, 2010 8:38 am

    I’m all for freedom of choice when it comes to childbirth. It is such a personal experience for every woman who goes through it all. It should be 100% up to the woman whether she gives birth at home or in hospital, either naturally or via C-section, with all the support she needs.

    Yes, the authorities would be far better off worrying about obesity and the correlating rates of diabetes (although the Emirati doctor in another forum seems to think jealousy of the UAE causes diabetes…)

  2. Amysue on May 29, 2010 9:59 pm

    I was totally supportive of this article until the last sentence. OBESITY? Really? So we’re only going to support women who want to have natural home births, as long as they are not fatties? Please, look into Health At Every Size. Please, do some research and think about what you’re writing instead of regurgitating the party line about the “obesity epidemic.”

  3. Miss Anne Thropic on May 30, 2010 10:08 am

    Um, Amysue, I think the writer meant that the rising obesity rates in the UAE should be a bigger concern for the authorities than interfering with women’s choice when it comes to childbirth. The writer is not saying overweight, pregnant women should be denied the choice of a home birth.


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