Critically explore pregnancy and childbirth, addressing the academic literature; quantitative and qualitative data; and popular culture.
In recent years, women’s experiences of pregnancy and childbirth have become more and more familiarized with technologies and advancements. From the progress and innovation in medical techniques, including antenatal testing, screening tests and diagnostic tests, to the improvement of childbirth techniques, with epidurals and c-sections now available when requested or needed. In this essay I will explore the ideas of pregnancy and childbirth focusing on the UK and comparing it to the USA, discussing why women might decide on homebirth over hospital birth, the roles that midwives and obstetricians have had, the critiques of the medicalisation of childbirth and how several social factors surrounding the medical environment may affect parents decisions alongside the precautions and instructions given to women throughout their pregnancies. I would also like to consider the methods of child delivery couples decide on. To do so I will take into consideration quantitative and qualitative data together with popular culture events, which will provide us with a framework of data useful to a thorough evaluation of these matters.
Pregnancy, which is the period from conception to birth, and childbirth, also referred to as labour, which is the final stage in a woman’s pregnancy, have become of great interest to sociologists due to the crucial and defining status they have taken in women’s lives. Both in the USA and in the UK, techniques and methods in which pregnancy and childbirth are dealt with have evolved. Society has placed restrictions and rules on how these natural events should be taken care of. For example, in both countries, women are provided with do’s and don’ts to follow throughout a pregnancy. These include things such as; “Get all essential nutrients, including iron, everyday”, “Don’t drink alcohol or use illegal substances”(www.womenshealth.gov) and “Eat safely during pregnancy” (http://nhslocal.nhs.uk). Although these seem like minor and possibly evident directives to follow, they have only recently been implemented, because before medical research had been carried out on these affecting factors, society did not worry on how they could concern the pregnancy. Not only do women receive information about how to deal and act throughout the pregnancy, they also have the possibility to receive screenings. Whilst all screenings are voluntary, some, such as blood tests and 2D ultrasound scans, are often considered vital and done by most women. Others, still elective, such as amniocentesis, which can detect chromosome alterations in the foetus, are not always considered or even given as an option by the doctors because they are not believed to be required in those situations. “Within the UK, in the first and second trimester of pregnancy women are offered a range of blood tests which include screening for maternal diseases and screening for fetal health” (Reed, 2009:345). Statistics show that “63.0 per cent of women (in the UK) had their first antenatal assessment within the first completed 12 weeks of pregnancy. This compares to 58.3 per cent in 2008-09” (NHS, 2010). The rise in antenatal tests show that women are more aware of the issues that could be brought up by these tests, and believe they are important to receive. These procedures, which are helpful and can prepare parents for what is to come or decisions to be made, still expose societies influence. Society has not been known to be very accepting of a newborn with a mental or physical handicap, so these tests can aid the soon to be parents to make informed decisions. “While it is illegal to abort a foetus on the grounds of its sex or ‘race’, termination because of anticipated impairment is permissible. […] From a legal perspective the ‘right to life’ becomes meaningful on live birth. At this point the baby is considered a person...
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