If you read our blog about why cesarean surgeries are on the rise in India, you will probably remember one of the main contributing reasons for the rise: the medical model of care. Check out the satirical video in this blog for a good illustration of the medical model of care. After watching this video, you may see how this style of care can interfere with a natural, biological process.


The Performance– Sex [Conception] like Birth

At the bottom of this post is a satirical video that depicts a medicalized version of conception. It wonderfully parallels some of the challenges that women/families face when giving birth in typical hospitals. While this video was made in Italy, India and Italy share many common issues – over-medicalization of pregnancy and birth.

This means over-interfering with a normal and natural process that otherwise should work well on its own (most of the time). Skilled and experienced professionals who support normal birth in healthy women usually have cesarean surgery rates less than 5% but many have as low as 1% caesarean rates and more than often 100% successful breastfeeding rates. But, both of these countries suffer from alarmingly high cesarean surgery rates and very high episiotomy rates (surgical cut to the vagina to make the opening wider), as well as other inappropriately applied medical practices.

So if you want, scroll to the bottom and watch this seven and half minute video, or just see my summary/screenshots below:

The Satire – play by play

The video starts out with a couple kissing, gearing up to make a baby. The lights are naturally dim and they both are in the moment with passion. Suddenly the lights are flicked on:

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Mood killer?

Next, the doctor and nurse go over the couple’s chart (while hardly looking up from the chart), assessing their health. For the most part, the health of the couple is reassuring, but…

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Next, routine assessments are carried out – blood pressure, temperature, etc. – and the doctor notes the mother is ovulating so conception must happen today! They are informed to change into “appropriate dress” and are hooked up to machines for monitoring:

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Does this seem like natural conception to you?

Finally, the two are left to themselves to get the job done. But before long:

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The couple is given instructions to “correctly” conceive. They are redirected to the bed as the doctor coaches the husband how to correctly make love to his wife. The husband is thirsty, but no water allowed! Instead, the nurse starts an IV (without asking him beforehand).  The husband is obviously disturbed and can’t “perform.”

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Really?

Things aren’t going so well. The doctor and nurse give them “one more try” before they inseminate her. Meanwhile, they give the couple “privacy” as they discuss other patients – some who go for natural conception versus those who go right in for insemination, without even trying:

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At last, the couple gives up. The doctor and nurse comfort them, telling them the couple did their best and not to worry as they are experts at insemination. So what to write in the notes about this “trial of conception?”

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Flash-forward 8 months – the couple happily sits next to each other with a big baby bump. The husband concedes that he “doesn’t know what happened” to him, but expresses their gratitude to the hospital staff because:

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Why did natural conception fail?

At the beginning of the video, there is a slide quoting Michel Odent’s The Function of Orgasms stating:

Oxytocin is the love hormone and is produced during sex, labor, and birth [as well as breastfeeding].

It is not produced in stressful situations.

What the slide doesn’t mention is that oxytocin is the hormone largely responsible for labour contractions. If a woman isn’t able to produce enough oxytocin during labour, her contractions will not be as effective.

No oxytocin = no contractions = no labor

Many people explain that oxytocin is a “shy hormone” meaning it is not produced in just any situation. As noted in the slide, the hormone can not easily be produced in situations where one feels stressed, angry, agitated or scared, because other hormones, like adrenaline, can inhibit it.

Oxytocin is most easily produced in situations where one feels relaxed, free, at ease and uninhibited. It is the hormone released during orgasm for both men and women. What conditions, environmentally and mentally, need to be present to reach your climax? The scenario posed in the movie wouldn’t be your idea of romance.

So going back to the question of why natural conception failed for this couple…

Could it be – that the conditions created in the hospital were not actually conducive for lovemaking?
 
While the doctor and nurse were pleasant enough, was the problem that the couple was never allowed to relax and “get into the groove”?
 
Was it because their natural and inherent abilities were undermined?
 
Because they had time limits imposed upon them and were under pressure to be successful?
 
Or was it a combination of all these – causing the couple to doubt themselves and lack confidence – only because they had been led to believe that they needed medical management to conceive naturally?
We see a very similar picture with birth. Births often result in an “emergency” cesarean surgery due to “failure to progress.” But where is the real failure happening? I postulate that usually, the environment is really not suited well for a labouring woman. She isn’t often given much peace, reassurance or left alone long enough to really get into her labour zone. The medical system all too often fails to provide and fails to wait.

So what are your thoughts?

It’s more than likely that you could pick out the parallels between this video and what it is like to give birth in a typical hospital these days. Both conception and birth are natural biological processes that we are designed to do. But modern day childbirth has become quite a complex life event that may very well end up in surgery…

So I ask you:

  • Do you think the couple really needed the help of the “experts” to conceive?

  • What striking parallels did you notice?

  • Are there any similarities between sex and birth?

  • Can you see how a medicalized care can interfere with the birth process?

  • Have any of you experienced care during birth that you felt was hindering and not helping you?

  • What conditions are really required to have a good experience and a successful birth?

If you want to know more about the medical model of care and if there are any better alternatives, stay tuned for the next blog.

 If you haven’t watched the video, take a look…

 

Zoe Quinn is a volunteer for Birth India. She is American but has lived outside of Pune, India since the beginning of 2013. She is married to a Maharashtrian and they enjoy one wild son together. After a fantastic homebirth in 2014, she has been on her path towards becoming a midwife, is studying to be a Lamaze Childbirth Educator and advocates for safe and joyful physiologic birth.

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