Friday, August 31, 2012

Childbirth in Indian nursing homes: Inhuman and degrading

For most women in India, the process of giving birth is degrading, inhuman, and cruel -- especially when they give birth in nursing homes. It sounds weird that a home birth should be better, but it is true.

Even today, a lot of women in rural India opt for childbirth at home and I believe they are happier. They are surrounded by women who wipe their brow, massage their backs, and give succor and encouragement in whatever way possible. They are not surrounded by coldhearted disillusioned nurses and doctors who treat them like a piece of meat -- or worse -- as if they have sinned (they are known to make comments like "oh I am sure you enjoyed the sex, now enjoy the pain too).

The nurses are a breed in themselves. From the minute they take you into the labour room, they treat you with utter disdain. They will shove an enema down your arse like they would do to a buffalo. They shave your privates with little regard to your delicate parts. They ask you to clamber on to the labour table and offer no assistance when you have to use a footstool to get there. They don't let you walk around even if you feel like. They do not let you sit up while pushing or even while you are cramping up. They will not hold your hand or offer one kind word when you are in the middle of the worst pain of your life.

Most doctors in India will not offer you pain management.

Most likely your gynecologist will enter the labour room only after the head of the child is visible (if it is a natural delivery). Most will give you pitocin even if you are having regular contractions just to 'finish the damned thing.' Most will give you an episiotomy even if you don't need one for the same reason.

Here is what happened to me: My water broke at home. I started having regular contractions -- every 15 minutes or so. Went to the hospital. The main gynecologist would not see me at such an early stage -- the assistant started me on pitocin even when i told her i had regular cramps. The nurses treated me exactly how I have described above. At one time I asked one of the nurses to hold my hand and she told me we don't do that. That utter humiliation plays out again and again in my mind even today. The pitocin made me cramp so violently that I delivered in 2 hours -- I had a third degree episiotomy, which has damaged my pelvic floor permanently. If I ever need to look normal down there, I need corrective surgery. My episiotomy stitches tore on the third day -- so my vagina is actually now a gaping hole.

I am so permanently psychologically scarred by the experience that I have not gone to another gynecologist to ask what can be done. I have not been able to go back to the hospital and confront the gynecologist who did this -- she is a woman. I am a total nervous wreck. I feel angry. I feel angry. And impotent.


  1. Oh my god. I am so sorry that happened to you. I was reading articles in the RadFem Reader and the phrase "birth is degrading" sounded like a definite keyword search and here you are. :(

    Pitocin is used around the world even in places where it is illegal for use in labor. It is a cruel thing to give women who should be taking it somewhat slowly. I hope that we can change the terrible way births are handled very soon. We will only have more casualties (death, psychological damage, permanent injury) until then.

  2. Your story is really sad and I agree that doctor don't care about the patient they treat patients like a piece of meet.

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