Childbirth is a woman’s issue. Childbirth is a woman’s issue. Childbirth is a woman’s issue . . . I’ve seen this phrase countless times during my research for this post, and maybe it’s just me, but something about these five words put together in this order is extremely unsettling.
My first response to this sentence is that women don’t just get pregnant on their own…getting pregnant, which is the precursor to childbirth, is something that can only happen if both a male and a female are present (unless you go the non-traditional route of insemination, but let’s stick to the traditional way of reproduction for the sake of this post). Why then should this only be thought of as a “woman’s issue?” Does the father have no right or say or responsibility for this little human too? Second of all, in most cases, childbirth should not be discussed as an issue. To birth a child is to give the gift of life.
Where this phrase is highly-alarming in my young American eyes, it is seen as yet another part of the Middle Eastern culture that happens to vary greatly from the American way of life. Pregnancy is something that occurs in all cultures (obviously, the human race would die off without procreation), but I was surprised yet again by the differences in culture and custom when it comes to how pregnancy is perceived in the Middle East.
Let’s start at the very beginning . . . a very good place to start:
- In the Middle East: Abortions are highly looked down upon.
Not unsimilar to the U.S., abortions are not a respected option for women in the Middle East. Only in the case of the mother facing possible harm or death is the option of abortion seen as a possible route. While they are not considered a respected practice in either region, the U.S. may have easier access to abortions than Middle Eastern women. Middle Eastern mothers face permanent disabilities and sometimes even death as a result of this inaccessible option.
- In the Middle East: Midwives are involved in prenatal care, delivery, and post delivery consultation.
This is what some would consider an archaic concept, seeing midwifery as a thing of the past. However, many women in other cultures (and even in the U.S.) still prefer the consultation and support of a midwife throughout their pregnancy and early childcare needs. In the Middle East, it is extremely common to have a midwife, and many times necessary because of lack of involvement in regards to the father. They are held in high esteem and are seen as a third parent figure in the early stages of motherhood. I was surprised to find that Midwives are not as popular in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. I couldn’t find a clear explanation as to why the use of midwives was so low for this region, however I can only assume that there is a lack of trained midwives and resources to train midwives, and/or they rely more heavily on hospitals/natural births/other healthcare professionals.
- In the Middle East: Pregnant women are allowed to abstain from fasting during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is seen as the fasting month. At first I was in shock (because a month of fasting sounds extremely difficult), however after reading more and learning the exact stipulations revolving around the fast, I could see how it would be manageable. Not easy, but doable nonetheless. Ramadan takes serious dedication. Daylight hours are fasting hours, but I discovered that this doesn’t necessarily apply to pregnant women. Regardless of their ability to disregard the fast and eat whatever they may, many pregnant women still observe the fast. Visit this source to learn more about the health risks and benefits of fasting while pregnant.
Next week, I will dive deeper into the differences in labor practices and the Middle Eastern traditions that occur after childbirth.