1. Mickey Z says " the vast majority of cases, women's bodies work very well...birthing human beings."

    This isn't actually true. Evolution has increased the brain size of human babies while failing to enlarge the pelvic outlet in step. It's a very tight fit. And although human beings have evolved to stand upright we still face mechanical problems. This is why people get back problems and why women have a much harder time delivering than other mammals.

    In the developing world maternal death rates are still very high and for every woman who dies 20 or 30 suffer complications with serious or long-lasting consequences. (

    A retired obstetrician I know supports a charity which sends small teams round parts of rural Africa correcting birth injuries, most of which result in incontinence. It's not only in the third world that birth poses risks. In my own family 3 women in my generation would have died during childbirth without prompt emergency intervention, 2 from post-partum haemorrhage. None of us appeared high risk until we were.

    Mickey Z describes American practice as though it's universal. Practice in Europe is very different. Women are encouraged to move, with many places offering birthing rooms, pools, etc. Her constant emphasis on male oppression as the root of over-mechanised childbirth is kinda funny, as one of the most influential European thinkers is Michel Odent, a French obstetrician who introduced birthing rooms, birthing pools and is the author of a number of hugely influential books on childbirth (

    The "tied down" American births she describes are less the product of patriarchy - Europe is also patriarchal - but of defensive medicine. If doctors are fearful of litigation should anything go wrong, they will follow whatever path offers the least risk. The evil effects of defensive medicine in the American health system are well known in Europe, where natural childbirth is popular, though home births are not.

    A few days after my son was born, my childbirth teacher from the National Childbirth Trust came to visit. Her first words were "You mustn't feel you're a failure."

    "I don't feel I'm a failure," I replied. "After 3 days in labour I had to have an emergency C-section. Things could have been very different. We're both safe and well."

    The conversation went downhill from there. I was the only one of 8 new mothers who wasn't invited to share my birthing story with the group. Women treated like children, with both class and teacher encouraged to ignore anything that hinted birth wasn't always a joyful, fulfilling experience.

    Mickey Z says: The biochemistry of birth and the rite of passage of labor combine and transform women into fierce and powerful protectors of their young..."

    She makes the mistake of glorifying the process when what's key is the outcome. Do those who "fail" this rite of passage also fail as mothers? Are we not "fierce and powerful protectors" of our babies? Midwives who insist birth is risk-free do no service to women. Quite the opposite. 11 babies and 1 mother died in the UK recently when staff were "strongly influenced by a small number of dominant midwives whose "over-zealous" pursuit of natural childbirth "at any cost" caused unsafe care." ( Although I sympathise with some of her observations, I wouldn't want Mickey Z looking after a daughter of mine.


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