There is some debate in the blogosphere about whether or not women should care about anything in their birth experience other than a healthy baby.

You can read posts that indicate that a healthy baby should be privileged to the exclusion of other concerns here (read the responses), here, and here.

While it appears that people say “all that matters is a healthy baby” to women all the time, not as many want to go public with that sentiment.  Women who have been told that “all that matters is a healthy baby,” however, have some feelings about that idea, and so do advocates for women.  You can read posts that indicate that there are important things to value in birth in addition to a healthy baby herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  If you google “healthy baby all that matters,” you can get more than 4 million other responses.

The statement that “all that matters is a healthy baby” dehumanizes women and suggests that they are nothing more than a conduit for birth.  While nearly all birthing women want nothing more than a healthy baby, it is disingenuous to imply that women cannot have healthy babies and be treated with dignity and have their own health valued at the same time.  And if a woman has an unhealthy baby, the woman’s health is still important.  The White Ribbon Alliance advocates for respectful maternity care as a human right.

respectful maternity care

view a larger version of the poster here

The WRA points out that violations of these rights happens in rich countries and poor countries and that women remember their childbirth experiences for a lifetime.  A healthy baby is very, very important.  So is a healthy mother–and mental health is as important as physical health to a woman’s ability to care for herself AND a newborn after birth.


Update: For information and analysis of the Rinat Dray forced cesarean case, see VBAC vs. Forced Cesarean: Facts, Opinion, and Informed Consent