3. LIFE BEYOND SURVIVING BIRTH; A CLINICAL CONUNDRUM

Debbie Lee-Forceps-acrylic on paper 2015 255

‘Forceps’ (2015), Debbie Lee, Acrylic on Paper

As soon as a Western woman announces to a doctor that she is pregnant, she finds herself subjected to invasive medical tests, check-ups, scans and examinations, which indiscriminately and repeatedly question her own mental and physical health as well as that of her unborn child. This is the norm in spite of the fact that anomalies are rare and chances of their in utero detection, diagnosis and treatment minute. This persistent confrontation with worst case scenarios throughout pregnancy cannot fail to slowly chisel away at a woman’s self-confidence, and contribute to making her feel anxious rather than curious about what could be the most empowering experience of her life. As she nears her due date, fear – the one emotion every obstetrician, gynaecologist and midwife knows is guaranteed to interfere with the body’s natural ability to give birth – is likely to dominate her every decision. When her baby eventually announces its imminent arrival, it does not take much for her and her partner to hand over the little control they feel they have left to the powers that be, for what they have been led to believe is the benefit of their unborn child. In England, the number of instrumental births increased by 25% and caesarean births by 50% in the first ten years of the new millenium, with the USA experiencing a 60% increase in caesarean births over the same period. Most of us now accept the use of hard drugs, metal instruments and operations as routine practice, rather than seeing them as life saving measures for the 5% of births that are proven medical emergencies. The argument that this is but a small price to pay for the medical and scientific advances made in childbirth in the 21st century, no longer holds. Save the Children’s 16th annual Mothers’ Index revealed at the end of 2015 that the USA now has the worst maternal health record of all developed countries in the world, with the UK following closely behind ranking only seven places higher. So what are the real reasons behind the fact that, in the 21st century, fewer Western women than ever before are able to do what has come naturally to the vast majority of them since the beginning of humanity; to trust their bodies to give birth? What is the extent of the emotional impact of this mass female disability on women’s sense of self after birth? What, in turn, are the consequences of this shift in women’s confidence for their partners, their relationship with their partners, and their children? In an attempt to answer these questions, DIEP will be exploring the potential correlation between the points above and: * The role current medical protocol (on the treatment and representation of pregnancy and birth) itself may play in women’s inability to give birth without medical assistance; * The potential connection between the increase in the medicalisation of pregnancy and birth and the increase in certain perinatal mental health problems in women and men in the 21st century; * The question mark over the long-term physical and emotional consequences of certain birth interventions on women and children;

If you feel you have written important work or are in the process of conducting academic or independent research which relates strongly to any aspect of the above or adds to the debate on LIFE BEYOND SURVIVING BIRTH; A CLINICAL CONUNDRUM in any other way, you may want to apply to become a DIEP Research Fellow. Please click on the image below to download the application form for more information.

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