Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim
Midwifery Today keeps a list of international contacts to act as resource and liason for their respective regions. I am honored to be the contact for Saudi Arabia. Today the international edition of their E-News was released with a country report from all of the country contacts.
My report on the culture of birth in Saudi is copied here. I hope you enjoy reading it and would love your perspective. Now on to the report...Saudi Arabia Birthing Culture...
Saudi Arabia Birthing Culture
Birth in Saudi Arabia has as many similarities as it has differences to birth in the United States. One similarity is that the medical model has arrived in the big cities and is here to stay. With it has come a significant increase in cesarean sections, 80% over a 10 year span (Saudi Cesarean Epidemic: http://saudibirthstory.blogspot.com/2010/11/saudi-cesarean-sections.html). In Saudi culture “natural” birth simply means “vaginal,” rather than “non-medicated.”
Unlike the United States, a single room for labor, delivery, and recovery is unheard of. Mothers are wheeled back to operating theaters, even for natural births, and fathers (or other support persons) are often times not permitted to enter. Fathers are considered little more than seed-planters in the childbearing process. They are not expected to attend and some doctors act as if the request for such a thing is absurd! A rare few are open to it. Early bonding with mom is not facilitated as babies are quickly whisked away to hospital nurseries. Early bonding with dad isn’t even a consideration as it is customary for the new mother and baby to spend her first 40 postpartum days in the home of her mother, away from her husband.
Unfortunately, childbirth education is also virtually unknown and women enter their labor and birth with little option other than to hand their bodies over to the obstetrician like a car to a mechanic. Since my recent arrival in Saudi Arabia I have been able to locate and link up with other doulas. At present, we are a scattered few and all from foreign lands. The Western expatriate community is keen on our birthing values but the locals are in the dark. There is also a language barrier that must be overcome if we hope to reach Saudi nationals. As doulas and advocates for natural birth we are working hard to unite and dream of a changed birthing culture where childbirth education, involved fathers, doula services and natural birth are the norm.
— Aisha Al Hajjar Natural Mom and Bradley Method Childbirth Educator/Lecturer firstname.lastname@example.org http://saudibirthstory.blogspot.com/