Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I learned a new term recently: birthrape. I'm not entirely sure who coined it, but Navelgazing Midwife has described it this way:

"The experience of having fingers, scissors, and/or tools put/pushed/shoved inside a woman's vagina or rectum without her direct (or indirect) permission.

"Being coerced, manipulated, or lied to regarding the health and safety of the baby or themselves so the midwife is able to do something to the mother's vagina, rectum, cervix, or perineum, usually with excuses; rarely with apologies."

Navelgazing Midwife is dedicated to raising awareness about the abuse countless women suffer at the hands of doctors, nurses, and midwives. If you're interested in learning more about this deeply pain-filled subject, check out Navelgazing Midwife's post here.

Just a few warnings... there is a photograph at the top of her blog with the breasts and belly of a naked pregnant woman laboring, just so you'll be prepared. Also, her post and the comments in response to it are full of very painful, difficult stories and experiences. It is not easy to read, but I feel that these stories need to be heard. It breaks my heart to hear of the horrific things that happen to women over and over again. It also fills me with a determination to stop the abuse!

When will we say ENOUGH?!


Fig said...

I read the N.G. Midwife's post about birthrape, and was thoroughly traumatized.

Up until now, I've felt that I'm a hospital-but-with-midwife/doula-birth kind of girl, but I am now terrified to even set foot inside a hospital once pregnant.

I imagine I'll settle down from that, as I do believe that there are caring, empathetic, skilled doctors and anesthesiologists out there . . . but I am so grateful for the information and insight I'm gaining from your site, Lani! Wow, I shudder to think of going into labor without knowing these things.

Here's what I have always, ALWAYS known: no epidurals, episiotomies, or scheduled C-sections for me. I used to feel weird telling people that, because no one I knew, except my own mother, could fathom giving birth without meds and/or invasive procedures. People responded to my words with shock and disdain, and with "that's just what you think - wait until you're actually giving birth, you'll change your tune".

Thanks for showing me that I'm right, and that I'm not alone! I know now that my feelings are INSTINCTS - the manifestation of my inherent belief in my own God-given ability to deliver healthy babies in a normal way.

Lani said...

I am so glad my blog is helpful! I was intrigued, though, that NGMidwife talked a lot about how midwives themselves sometimes perpetuate the abuse even at homebirths, so, though I am often inclined to consider all midwives angels and all OBs demons, it's just not the case. Some midwives are abusive and some OBs are compassionate. I guess it's just a matter of finding the good ones. I just wish more women were aware of the abuse and cared enough to stop allowing it to continue. Unfortunately, too many women just submit 'cause "doctor knows best." :-(

Before you write-off the hospital altogether, though, remember that I had both of my babies at the hospital and both experiences were wonderful in my view. Yes, they could have been better and I'd like to improve upon them next time, but they were smooth, uncomplicated, and I received support and compassion from (some of the) nurses and doctors. It can be done! :-)

Fig said...

Right . . . I too was amazed to read that so much of the abuse comes at the hands of midwives (that accounted for a lot of my traumatization).

I won't write off hospitals at all, I'm still fairly convinced that I'd like to give birth in a hospital or birthing center, although with a midwife - rather than a doctor? Can you have a midwife rather than a doctor at a hospital? I'm still learning.

My concern now is how to find a good midwife?

Also, I'm fairly sure I spelled some stuff wrong in that first one, but medical birth terms aren't words I use on a daily basis. :-)

Lani said...

I didn't see any mis-spellings. :-)

Yes... you can have a certified nurse midwife in the hospital. As far as I'm aware CNMs are generally the only type of midwife with hospital privileges. I saw a group of CNMs with my second pregnancy.

I found that my overall pregnancy and birth experience was an improvement upon my previous experience, but I was also a little disappointed. I expected the CNMs to be MORE different from OBs than they actually were.

And there were a couple of things that were actually surprisingly less pleasant... like I had three ultrasounds with the midwives! I think they're hyper-sensitive about making sure they refer high-risk cases to OBs so they don't lose their hopsital privileges or back-up physicians or something. So they were a little ultrasound-happy. The first was 'cause I was "measuring big" in the beginning of my pregnancy, the second was the routine ultrasound, and the last was 'cause I was "measuring small" a the end of my pregnancy. Ultimately there were no problems and everything was fine. I was also irritated when the delivering midwife was pulling with a great deal of force on the umbilical cord to deliver the placenta... not gently tugging, I'm talking tug-of-war! I was really shocked and annoyed, but I had just pushed out a posterior baby and wasn't really in a state to protest or think about much besides how glad I was that the labor was essentially over! Anyway... I'm hoping my next experience will be able to avoid all these pitfalls!

Here I go rambling again! I guess you're used to it by now, though!