Sunday 18 September 2011

The Fear Monger

A few days ago, I received an invitation for a seminar entitled “Joys of Motherhood”.  I went online to register looking forward to topics on breastfeeding or perhaps on ways to bond with the baby, only to find out in dismay that the series of talks has nothing to do with the joys of being a mom.  In fact, it is entirely the opposite. 

1st Talk: Emergencies in Pregnancy: Symptoms, Signs and Treatment
2nd Talk: Pain Relief in Labor: Myths and Misconceptions of Epidural
3rd Talk: Bringing up a Super-kid: Fact or Fiction?
4th Talk: The Importance of Saving your Baby’s Cord Blood
5th Talk: Protection Needs: Early Stage Critical Illnesses

What do they all have in common?  They elicit unnecessary worry for the mom-to-be.  They are under the assumption that pregnancy is NOT WITHOUT complications and moms should be wary of symptoms and its corollary treatment.  Not that these things are unimportant to know, I’m sure they are lifesaving for both the mom and her baby.  However, I feel that the emphasis should be on proper nutrition and exercise, on how to stay healthy mentally and physically during pregnancy, THEN maybe some very important emergencies to look out for.  I am bothered with how the medical industry has created this halo of fear when really 90% fall in into the category of normal or low-risk pregnancy.

What about the myths and misconceptions of epidural?  Again it instills in the minds of moms that labor is painful and scary, enough to warrant an epidural.  Yes, the talk is about pain relief in labor but why single out epidural?  Even if epidural has been improved over the years to debunk some fallacies surrounding it, the cons still outweigh the pros and the risks are very much real.  And whatever happened to breathing and visualization techniques anyway?  Lamaze and Hypno-birthing methods offer effective pain relief with far more benefits than the use of epidural.  In fact, the World Health Organization does not consider an epidural to be essential for care in normal birth.  

Clearly, this seminar is another venue for marketing.  As the talk culminates with the importance of saving cord blood and touches on the early stage critical illnesses and is hosted by none other than Cordlife itself, one can’t help but be skeptic of these seminars.   Are they truly meant to empower women to make informed and unbiased choices?  Are there any real seminars that do not come with the hidden agenda of product promotion?

This greatly reminds me of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s book “Childbirth Without Fear”, when he made this proposition:

“Superstition, civilization and culture have brought influences to bear upon the minds of women which have introduced justifiable fears and anxieties concerning labor.  The more cultured that races of the earth have become, so much the more positive they have been in pronouncing childbirth to be a painful and dangerous ordeal.”

“…This is not the purposeful design of creation.  Somewhere, for some reason, an interloper has crept in, and must be eradicated, through blindness and ignorance in the development of our civilization, has been allowed to grow and impede the natural course of events.”

The interloper, in my opinion, is the ‘medicalization’ of childbirth.  Somewhere along the way, we have somehow lost our bearing in the fast pursuit of modernity.  Yet, we need not go far for answers.  Since the time of antiquity, Aristotle already believed of the mind-body connection and emphasized the importance of deep relaxation during childbirth.  Hippocrates was the forerunner in giving out formal instruction of midwifery.  Soranus, who compiled writings of Hippocrates and Aristotle, stressed that needs and feelings of women should be properly addressed and advocated using the powers of the mind to achieve relaxation to bring about easy birthing.

Dr. Grantly Dick-Read went on to assert that, “Childbirth is not a physical function.  The drama of the physical manifestations has blinded observers to the truth – the birth of a child is the ultimate phenomenon of a series of spiritual experiences, from fantasy to fact and from fact to fruition… supreme human function must not be neglected or belittled by the subjective materialism of modern science.”

The good news is, over the last few decades, just as western medicine recognizes the limitations of treating the physical alone – they start to realize that the body-mind (and even spirit) connection has far more healing powers than previously given due credit (e.g. meditation, bio-feedback).  Women too are starting to reclaim ownership of her body.  Women are realizing that her body is perfectly designed and more than capable enough to give birth without fear – without anesthesia and medical intervention.


  1. Oh!!! Thank you so much for this. All the warnings! Where is the joy?

  2. Exactly! No wonder a lot of moms are already stressed out, the baby has even yet to come out! Thanks Alex!


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