Why did UK midwives promote normal birth? Medical imperialism.

Why did UK midwives campaign for normal birth? Why did they continue to promote it despite an ever rising death toll?

The felt — and some still feel — duty bound to bring unmedicated vaginal birth to the benighted women who don’t understand its value.

They are practicing a form of medical imperialism.

The UK has a long, sordid history of imperialism, taking over and exploiting large parts of the world and leaving innocent dead in their wake. Over the centuries, the British invoked a wide variety of spurious justifications, but perhaps the most egregious was the insistence that they were doing it for the benefit of those they subjugated.

I was reminded of that justification when I read Milli Hill’s tweet in response to the Royal College of Midwives’ apology for the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of deaths of babies and mothers that resulted from their Campaign for Normal Birth.

I’ve seen concerted effort over the years to portray midwives as dangerous mavericks too and that seems unfair and possibly misogynistic. If any of them did have a so called ‘normal birth’ agenda it’s been spectacularly unsuccessful as intervention is currently through the roof.

It called to mind Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem justifying imperialism, The White Man’s Burden.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Milli Hill, like Kipling before her, believes she and her natural childbirth colleagues have been engaged in a ‘civilizing mission.’

As Wikipedia explains:

The western European colonial powers claimed that, as Christian nations, they were duty-bound to disseminate Western civilization to what Europeans perceived as the heathen and primitive cultures of the Eastern world.

Now, callously ignoring the dead babies and their traumatized families, some UK midwives and apologists — like any good imperialist — feel sorry for THEMSELVES because no one appreciates their good intentions. They believe with every fiber of their being that they know better than women themselves what type of birth is best for them.

It an ugly, self-justifying view of the way that they have exploited and harmed others — by denying women epidurals, preventing both necessary and maternal request interventions, killing babies and mothers in the process — to promote their ideology and benefit themselves.

The idea that their campaign must have been harmless because it ultimately did not succeed makes as much sense as insisting the British colonization of India must have been harmless because the Indians ultimately wrested back their independence.

Now British women are wresting back their independence. Her baby, her body, her birth, her choice!

UK midwives and their apologists must understand that it is not merely the Campaign for Normal Birth that has been a deadly failure, but the underlying ideology of medical imperialism — that midwives and natural childbirth advocates know what kind of birth is best for women — has no place in contemporary healthcare.