Friday, October 28, 2011

Teens: "I Have Sex"

This video came up in conversation during my Reproductive Health class, and I had never seen it before. Have a look, tell me what you think!

Teens: "I Have Sex"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Links of Interest

So, I've been more than a little busy lately, but here are several interesting articles that I've been keeping a list of and been meaning to share... I'm not caught up on my google reader, so you may have seen some of these may have been seen before, but if not, take a look!

  • I've been thinking a lot about the Certified Nurse Midwife vs. Certified Professional Midwife distinction, and here is a really great response to all the recent talk on the subject: CNM vs. CPM on Vita Mutari 

All your years of training–the blood, the sweat, the tears, the money spent on education, the hours sacrificed to your profession–they give you extraordinary skills and abilities and knowledge, but they do not give you  the knowledge of what it’s like to be any one of us

"I quickly realize, though, that either this is the biggest turd of my life, or it is the baby descending like a train through a tunnel"

"...push hard while making this super animalistic noise, very much like what Chewbacca marrying a humpback whale might have sounded like at the end of the raucous wedding reception"

I would say right now I am mostly trying to hash out a spot somewhere between three angles on the topic:
One. The fact that many or even most aspects of modern American birth are not optimal for healthy mothers and babies, aka the public health angle.
Two. The severe lack of information, choice, and agency most women face in their childbirth experiences, aka the feminist angle.
Three. The devious little inner know-it-all birth nerd that thinks everyone should have a non-interventive birth and breastfeed as long as possible, aka the asshole angle.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Banned from Baby Showers

Haha, I'm not really banned from baby showers. But that is the title of one of the blogs I like to frequent, and the phrase sure ran through my head a lot this past week.

Last weekend I went to my first baby shower for a couple that I consider my friends. Compared to the baby showers I've attended in the past, which were for moms who weren't in my friend circle, this one was a little bit different. This was the first one where I signed a card "Auntie Em"!

So, here I am at this baby shower, as a doula, but not as the pregnant couple's doula, thinking things that would surely get me banned from baby showers if I were to express them out loud.

The whole time I was suppressing the urge to get into pregnancy, birth and baby talk with the people at the baby shower. For one thing, I wanted to keep these friends, and you never know when one piece of unwanted information or advice could really piss someone off. Secondly, a lot of the family members in the room were either from a previous generation (which comes with its own beliefs and experiences and knowledge of how things go or should go), or from a younger generation that hasn't yet been exposed to the birth world beyond the fiction portrayed on television.

I think that its a fine line to walk, and probably why the blogger, Donna, decided to name her blog "banned from baby showers" in the first place. As someone who eat, sleeps, and breathes childbirth education and has numerous, recent, firsthand experiences in a variety of settings, (not to mention that I read about birth in my free time for fun, and I study maternal and child health in graduate school), I find it difficult not to share everything I've learned with everyone I encounter! I want to shout it all from the rooftops!

Now, don't get me wrong, I do not want to force anything on anyone, and I certainly respect someone's choices, but I respect them more if they are well-researched and well-considered. I would never ever openly judge a doula client or a friend for the choices they feel are best for them. But I am passionate about spreading knowledge, and I am of the opinion that pregnant women and their partners are severely under-prepared for childbirth these days.

Donna writes on her blog:
I decided a couple of years ago that it was probably more important to have friends than to educate them about why they shouldn't believe everything their OB says.
And that's how I feel, too. So, for now, all I can do is refer them to websites that they may not go to, lend them books they may not read, but otherwise keep my mouth shut at baby showers.

I promise I will! Please still invite me to your baby showers, friends!

Friday, October 14, 2011

MORE Business of Being Born

This is an absolutely amazing video!

Watch the trailer for More Business of Being Born - interviews with celebrities about their birth, Riki Lake and Abby Epstein meet Ina May Gaskin, women talk about how powerful labor and birth can be, issues related to VBAC and the rising Cesarean rate, and how incredible women are.

"It is a woman's right to make that decision of how she's going to give birth to her child, and it's also her right to have the information available so she can make a conscious decision, coming from a place of awareness and not a place of fear."

More Business of Being Born will be sold in a 4-DVD set, including:
1: Down on the Farm
2: Special Deliveries
3: Explore Your Options
4: The VBAC Dilemma
Learn more about them at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One World Birth Videos

Have you checked out One World Birth's library of videos yet?

September's theme was "The Big Picture" featuring some of the world's leading birth experts on the problems in birth, current trends, possible solutions and the idea of a birth revolution. Recent videos include:
October's theme is "The Love Month" all about normal birth and oxytocin. Check them out!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Anthropology of Reproductive Health: Part 2

This is the second part in my sharing of my Anthropology of Reproductive Health graduate course topics and readings.

This semester I am taking a fabulous anthropology course on reproductive health. With topics like state control/social control, pregnancy/prenatal care, childbirth/breastfeeding, abortion, infertility, STI's, and circumcision, what's not to love?

So, I thought I'd list the articles we've been reading so that you can read them, too, if interested. My professor has compiled an excellent reading list, and I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing them here. I will do this in parts, so as not to overwhelm anyone interested in seeing the full list, and I am including some notable quotes from some of the articles to give you an idea of what I found most interesting about them.

Our third class was dedicated to the topic of State Control/Social Control, and we touched on the following issues:

Medical Accuracy in Sexuality Education: Ideology and the Scientific Process. Santelli, J. (2008)
"The Waxman Report found that 11 of the 13 curricula [of commonly used abstinence programs] contained false, misleading or distorted information about reproductive health, including inaccurate information about contraceptive effectiveness and the risks of abortion, among others."
"Withholding potentially life-saving information from sexually active adolescents is ethically troubling. The principle of informed consent suggests that persons should be given all the information they need to make informed choices."
Counseling Contraception for Malian Migrants in Paris: Global, State, and Personal Politics Sargent, C. (2005)
"Sub-Saharan Africans had the highest fertility among foreigners living in France in 1999, with an estimated 4.72 children per woman, in contrast to 1.72 children born to mothers with French nationality."
"An implicit hospital policy opposes immigrant births and strongly encourages contraception."
"The prescription for the pill may be added to the stack of prescriptions a woman receives at discharge, without explanation."
"The predominant perspective among our informants was that Islam opposes contraception. In fact, Muslim jurists and theological texts demonstrate ambivalence regarding birth control."
Unintended consequences: Exploring the tensions between development programs and indigenous women in Mexico in the context of reproductive health. Smith-Oka, V. (2009). [I've read this before for another class; it seems to be an important one]

"Reproductive rights are culturally and historically located."
"I use a political economy framework to explore how seemingly innocuous programs, such as cash transfer policies, shape women's reproductive choices... My purpose includes the following: a. to examine women's perceptions of forcible interactions and the medical staff's use of insistence and a joking relationship to implement policies; b. to show how the implementation of development programs often goes awry on the ground; and c. to illustrate the intersections between medicine, economic development, and the state on women's reproductive freedom."
"Their knowledge about health and their bodies carry less weight than the knowledge of the medical personnel. In these contexts their knowledge becomes discredited and devalued in the light of the authoritative knowledge of doctors and nurses."

Sterilized in the name of public health: race, immigration and reproductive control in modern California. Stern, A.  (2005) 
"California defined sterilization not as a punishment but as a prophylactic measure that could simultaneously defend the public health, preserve precious fiscal resources, and mitigate the menace of the 'unfit' and 'feebleminded.'"
"foreign-born were disproportionately affected, constituting 39% of men and 31% of women sterilized."
"African Americans constituted just over 1% of California's population, they accounted for 4% of total sterilizations."
"California's sterilization program was propelled by deep-seated preoccupations about gender norms and female sexuality...the sterilization of women and young girls categorized as immoral, loose, or unfit for motherhood intensified."
"Sterilizations were particularly pushed on women with 2 or more children who underwent cesarean deliveries."
The social life of emergency contraception in the United States: disciplining pharmaceutical use, disciplining sexuality, and constructing zygotic bodies. Wynn, L and J. Trussle. (2006)

This article examines the FDA hearing on the proposal to permit nonprescription access to the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill. The arguments of those who came to testify for or against it are laid out and analyzed. Some of the reasons I highlighted in my text were "doctors would lose key opportunities to talk with their patients about contraception, sexual decision-making, and the risk of sexually transmitted disease" (which I've never had a doctor do, and would require women to pay not only for the pill, but also the doctor's office time, not to mention is an unequal power relationship), portraying Plan B, but not Viagra, as facilitating the sexual exploitation and seduction of women, contestations of zygotic personhood (not fetal personhood, but actually zygotic prior-to-implanation personhood), and more. Great article!
"Political debates over new medical technologies, especially new reproductive technologies, are not so much debates about science and technology as they are centrally concerned with interpreting these technologies within a web of (sub)culturally defined moral valuations and social interpretations."
 "Because the contraceptive effect of breastfeeding may operate by preventing the implantation of the fertilized eff, should the merits of breastfeeding be rethought in the name of human (zygotic) life, or should female sexuality be avoided during lactation? Because half of fertilized eggs never implant, should more respect be given to the menstrual blood of sexually active women that most Americans dispose of unceremoniously in tampons and other sanitary protection products?"

The following fabulous articles consider issues regarding Pregnancy/Prenatal Care:

Ethics: ‘‘Life Before Birth’’ and Moral Complexity in Maternal-Fetal Surgery for Spina Bifida Bliton, M.J. (2003)

The Production of Authoritative Knowledge in American Prenatal Care Browner, C.H. and N. Press (1996)
"Patients are active interpreters of medical information. They pick and choose, using and discarding advice according to internal and external constraints and considerations. In our case of pregnant informants, embodied knowledge and everyday life exigencies proved to be pivotal in their selective designation of certain biomedical knowledge as authoritative."
"Valuing information about prenatal care derived from embodied knowledge over that of biomedical knowledge contrasts with the attitudes and behavior that characterize most American women as they give birth. During labor American women are highly acquiescent to biomedical authority at the expense of embodied knowledge."

God-sent ordeals and their discontents: Ultra-orthodox Jewish women negotiate prenatal testing. Ivry, T., E. Teman, et al. (2011).
"Ethnographies of reproduction teach us that a religion's formal attitude to a certain technology may be notably unrelated to its practical use... being religious does not always mean refusal [of prenatal diagnosis]."
"Carrying and raising an unhealthy child is a task God might assign a woman to test her faith... women in our study constantly prayed not to be she whom God chose for such an ordeal."
"Nearly all the women could recall at least one story of another woman getting rabbinic permission to terminate a pregnancy that was life-threatening or after lethal anomalies were detected."

Interrogating the dynamics between power, knowledge and pregnant bodies in amniocentesis decision making. Markens, S., C. H. Browner, et al. (2010) 
"A common assumption is that women who decline prenatal testing distrust biomedicine and trust embodied/experiential knowledge sources, while women who accept testing trust biomedicine and distrust embodied/experiential sources. Another major assumption about prenatal testing utilization is that women who are open to abortion will undergo prenatal testing while those who are opposed to abortion will decline testing."
"'Should a pregnant woman do everything doctors advise?' 'No, they may be wrong too, you never know.'"
"'What is to guarantee the doctors know? They are human beings, and they make mistakes too... while pregnant you need to get as much advice from them [as possible], but also not to believe in everything.'"
"It is important not to view biomedical and other knowledge sources as inherently in opposition - many women see various source as powerful, valid and useful. In other words, accepting biomedical knowledge implies neither passivity in the face of technology not a necessary distrust of experiential knowledge sources."
"In our study, Mexican-born women were much more likely than the US-born women to both believe that they can 'tell' if the baby is fine and to believe it's important for pregnant women to do everything doctors advise."

Perils to Pregnancies:On social sorrows and strategies surrounding pregnancy loss in Cameroon. Van Der Sijpt, E. and C. Notermans (2010) 
"Pregnant bodies have been predominantly homogenized, politicized, and medicalized."
"Spontaneous losses are often suspected to be provoked; induced abortions are often presented as spontaneous ones."
"Local notions of loss are thus not only more encompassing and diverse than assumed in global debates, but they also require strategic values that cannot be understood if not situated within local atmospheres."

Do these quotations spark any feelings or considerations? Have you read these articles? Please share your thoughts!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anthropology of Reproductive Health: Part 1

This semester I am taking a fabulous anthropology course on reproductive health. (I actually told my class that I have this blog, so if you are my classmate, hello!) I am enjoying this class more than any other class I've taken so far in graduate school - the discussions each week are excellent and I want them to continue all day, the reading assignments are fascinating and I enjoy every one, and the overall class theme is issues related to sexual and reproductive health from a multi-disciplinary approach! With topics like state control/social control, pregnancy/prenatal care, childbirth/breastfeeding, abortion, infertility, STI's, and circumcision, what's not to love?

So, I thought I'd list the articles we've been reading so that you can read them, too, if interested. My professor has compiled an excellent reading list, and I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing them here. I will do this in parts, so as not to overwhelm anyone interested in seeing the full list, and I am including some notable quotes from some of the articles to give you an idea of what I found most interesting about them.

The first day we talked about Reproductive Health and Human Rights, for which we read the articles listed below.

Palestinian Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights in a Longstanding Humanitarian Crisis (Bosmans, M., D. Nasser, U. Khammash, P. Claeys, and M. Temmermane 2008)
"...the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is seriously affecting the sexual and reproductive rights of both refugee and non-refugee women in the West Bank and Gaza."
"Two international organizations mentioned keeping records of deliveries, still-births and cases of women dying during delivery at the military checkpoints because they were denied passage to reach the hospital."
"A woman's contribution to national development and survival is mainly understood in terms of her reproductive role, and persistent gender inequalities prevent her from using contraception."
Sex trafficking, sexual risk, sexually transmitted infection and reproductive health among female sex workers in Thailand (Decker, M. R., H. L. McCauley, et al. 2011)

‘Other Inhuman Acts': Forced Marriage, Girl Soldiers, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone (Park, A.J. 2006) 
"Girls should not be subsumed under the category 'women' or 'children', but require specific attention."
Advancing Transgender Family Rights through Science: A Proposal for an Alternative Framework (Sabatello, M 2011) 
"As not 'truly' man or woman, their right to marry was extremely curtailed. As not 'naturally' mother or father, their right to found a family could not reach the legal threshold for 'parenthood.'"
"While transgendered individuals were offered the advantage of scientific developments, exercising this option meant losing an array of other fundamental human rights."
Behind Closed Doors’: Debt-Bonded Sex Workers in Sihanoukville, Cambodia (Sandy, L. 2009) 

Our second class was devoted to the topic of Anthropology and Reproduction:

Anthropology theorizes reproduction: Integrating practice, political economic, and feminist perspectives. Greenhalgh, S. (1995) 

“Life Begins When They Steal Your Bicycle”: Cross-Cultural Practices of Personhood at the Beginnings and Ends of Life. (Morgan, L. 2006) [my favorite article of this week!]
 "Feminist anthropologists have asked, for example, how 'fetal subjects' have come to acquire social currency, and who is able to assert of deny their moral significance."
"Wari' [people in western Amazonia] models of personhood emphasize bodies that are interconnected; each individual's body is constituted through the continual exchange and incorporation of body substances such as blood, semen, breast milk, and sweat. Furthermore, one's identity changes throughout one's life as one becomes more or less related to multiple others through the exchange (or not) of body substances. When Conklin asked the Wari' to explain how babies are made, tey told her that a newborn is built from the gradual accumulation and mixing of the father's semen and maternal blood over the course of pregnancy. If a father goes away for an extended period of time while his wife is pregnant, the baby will be born thin and weak because it was deprived of the semen it needed to make it strong. Conklin explained that for the Wari', this conceptualization implies that babies are always considered to be the product of a sustained relationship between a man and a woman...A Wari' pregnancy therefore can never be a mistake; a Wari' child can never be 'unwanted.'"
 "I fear that the concept of culture has sometimes come to function as what anthropologist James Ferguson called an 'anti-politics machine,' an ideological apparatus used to divert attention away from structural inequalities that might be harder to change, or the questioning of which would threaten to destabilize the political system."
"A focus on fetal citizens diverts attention from other challenges that pregnant women face and from other threats to fetal health."
"Nor will personhood be resolved in the embryology laboratory or in the courts, for personhood is destined to be played forever on the disputatious fields of social practice."
Liminal Biopolitics: Towards a Political Anthropology of the Umbilical Cord and the Placenta. Santoro, P. (2011).
"Preserving UCB [umbilical cord blood] is offered as a form of engaging with biomedical evolution and with the whole new generation of stem cell therapies that will surely be developed in the near future."
In early Modern Europe, "the placenta simply could not be neglected: the child's future career depended on it, because the child inevitably suffered form the repercussions of any misadventure on the part of his double."
"[The placenta] was tied to the branch of a tree and left there to dry, or cooked and eaten by the mother and maybe other people (the belief being that the placenta had miraculous powers of fertility)." 
"Among the Cherokee, the navel-string of a girl is buried under a corn-mortar, in order that the girl may grow up to  be a good baker; but the navel-string of a boy is hung up on a tree, in order that he may be a hunter... In ancient Mexico they used to give the navel-string to soldiers, to be buried by them on a field of battle, in order that the boy might thus acquire a passion for war."
"A negligent disposal could be the source of directly disastrous events: if one burned the placenta in the fire, it was possible that the mother would suffer from fevers and inflammation of the womb..." 
"The Santals of East India, for instance, do not refer to their birthplace, rather they refer to 'the village where my afterbirth is buried'"
Culture, Scarcity, and Maternal Thinking: Maternal Detachment and Infant Survival in a Brazilian Shantytown. Scheper-Hughes, N. (1998)
"Infant and childhood mortality in the Third World is a problem of political economy, not of medical technology." 
"Whenever we social and behavioral scientists involve ourselves in the study of women's lives - most especially thinking and behavior surrounding reproduction and maternity - we frequently come up against psychobiological theories of human nature that have been uncritically derived from assumptions and values implicit in the structure of the modern, Western, bourgeois family. Theories of innate maternal scripts such as 'bonding,' 'maternal thinking,' or 'maternal instincts' are both culture and history bound, the reflection of the very specific and very recent reproductive strategy: to give birth to few babies and invest heavily in each one."
Feminist Anthropology Anew: Motherhood and HIV/AIDS as Sites of Action. Downe, P. J. (2011)

Check back for more soon!
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