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E. The Medicalization of Childbirth

Narrator: This is Science Today. Psychologist Robin DiMatteo of the University of California, Riverside did a study of women who had recently given birth for the first time, and found that the pain of childbirth had taken them by surprise. No one had told them what to expect. DiMatteo thinks part of the reason is what she calls the medicalization of childbirth.

DiMatteo: In traditional cultures, women who are giving birth are supported by lots of people, basically go through a very complex ritual that is part of the physical process of giving birth but there is an emotional rite of passage as well. In our culture, women go off to a sterile place, the hospital...

Narrator: ...where the women felt they had been acted upon rather than having taken an active role in giving birth.

DiMatteo: One mother, for example, felt that she really needed to walk around and move during labor but she wasn't allowed to, she was supposed to lie still to have the fetal monitor tracing come out right.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.