COMMERCIALISATION OF CHILDBIRTH
Medicalisation of human body has received much attention both theoretically and empirically in the last few decades. Medicalisation refers to a social phenomenon that makes for approaching disease and the course of treatment in terms of a medical model and individualised aetiology (Bury and Gabe, 2004). It is a process by which health or behaviour problems come to be defined and treated as medical issues (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medicalisation).
The term refers to the process by which certain events or characteristics of everyday life become medical issues, and thus fall within the purview of doctors and other health professionals. Moreover, medicalisation has been defined as a ‘process whereby more and more of everyday life have come under medical dominion, influence and supervision’ (Zola, 1983, cited in Ballard and Elston).
This growing reliance on medicine also appeared to be occurring in other aspects of life such as childbirth, menopause, and ageing (Zola, 1972, Friedson, 1970). A number of studies in this context elucidate that over the past few years, dependence on medical intervention during childbirth has gone up to combat maternal and child death. Hence, a growing number of deliveries are taking place through surgical intervention, resulting in a high rate of c-section deliveries in both developed as well as developing countries.
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It is well known fact that maternal and neonatal deaths have significantly reduced in the last century, in large part as a result of increased application of technology during labour and childbirth (Sen, 1994). What is now a matter of concern is the possibility of abusing this medical technology for profit , or for avoiding risk in health care facilities.
One example of the medicalisation of the human body is caesarean-section delivery. The rising trend in c-section rates, in both developed as well as developing countries, the higher preference accorded to this mode of delivery points to the growing medicalisation of women’s health.
Studies have shown how, over the past few decades, childbirth has come under the influence of medical technology. According to Johanson et al (2002), birth has become too ‘medicalised’ and the higher rates of unnecessary obstetrical intervention raise concern for the mother’s health.
Bruekens (2001) in this context, argues that over-medicalisation of maternal care has become a worldwide epidemic. In fact, medicalisation, in general, has taken control over human life and maternal health comes also under its ambit.
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It is often argued that with thriving private practice in many countries, obstetricians increasingly prefer c-section birth over normal childbirth. In addition, there is evidence from Western countries that women too often prefer to deliver the child through the c-section.
The rates of caesarean section in many countries have increased beyond the WHO-recommended level of 5-15 percent, almost doubling in the last decade. In high-income countries like Australia, US, Germany, Italy and France, the rates have gone up phenomenally in the last few decades (Sufang et al 2007). Similar trends have also been documented in low-income countries, particularly in Latin America and some countries in Asia. (Potter et al 2001; Cai et al 1998; Mishra and Ramanathan, 2002).
According to a WHO report (2007-2008), the figure is as high as 27 percent in India. These deliveries are mostly in private hospitals where the motive is profit.
There is a debate among social scientists and medical sociologists on what might be the possible causes for the greater preference for c-section delivery. While some studies focus purely on medical explanations, (Baskett and McMillen, 1998; Cai et al 1998), there are others that indicate that the trend is determined by the preferences of the women, many of whom take informed decisions. (Ash and Okah, 1997; Potter et al 2001). But the relative importance of these two sets of factors towards preference for c-section delivery is somewhat unclear.
The WHO report also says that in some cases, caesarian is not at all required but the women are compelled to go for it and most of the time deathbed situation or are admitted to the ICU or are confronted with many sorts of problems in the long run. As if that is not enough, the kids born through C-section have to grapple with respiratory disorders/breathing problems all their life.
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