Birth Justice: How Motherhood Became A Money-Making Mess

If you’re a mother or hope to be one in the future, the maternal care industry is rearing to profit off of you.

Here’s how.

Black women’s bodies have been used for profit for centuries. It started from the time of slavery. Colonizers saw enslaved women as productions tools — their black bodies an easy way to maintain a steady stream of slaves.

The atrocities are not unknown today. Yet, there are some events we rarely talk about:

In 1845, about 25 years before slavery ended, Dr. Sims, the “Father of Modern OBGYN practice,” began to conduct experiments on female slaves.

Although his goal was to advance OBGYN practices, this didn’t happen until 1880 — 35 years later. 

There was a common belief that black people had a high tolerance for pain. That they felt it significantly less than white people.

Doctors experimented on black women daily for years, regardless of the impact on their health… or whether they were even capable of surviving such gruesome torture.

They studied, prodded, and exploited black female slaves for what would become obstetrics.

Through such torture and exploitation, Dr. James Sims became famous and wealthy.

Today, the powers that be are taking advantage of all mothers in more covert ways. And without us realizing it, these practices have become entrenched in our lives.


The Infant Bottle Push

Around the same time that Dr. Sims began his practice, infant bottles were perfected. Before that, mothers only used breastfeeding nurses, aka, wet nurses.

At the time, there were faulty makeshift bottles made from animal skin. Special spoons and cups were also in use, yet they were not adequate replacements for a breast. 

Within four years of the improved bottles, pharmaceutical companies came on the scene. 

This combination led to a focus on manufactured products and medicines for women that never existed before.

Infant bottles became the norm.


The Formula Feed Frenzy

About 15 years after infant bottles came out, infant formula followed. And the artificial feeding tool drew on factory-produced milk to fill it. 

With this new commodity, pharmaceutical companies now saw women as a revenue market. 

They created a marketing push away from breastmilk and wet nurses and a push to formula feed.

Companies first promoted baby formula to white families. And they associated breastfeeding with poverty to boost sales.

There was a clear connotation that white women would want to use formula to distinguish their class from black women who still breastfed.

Eventually, these companies saw the black community as a prime target market for monetization. With their capitalist attitude, they started to go heavy in the black community. 

Marketing ploys made formula seem healthier than breastmilk. And they promoted brand formula as a way to increase class mobility.

In birth justice, we understand this painful disruption of women’s natural processes as a form of oppression. Exploitation for monetary gain. They hold no regard for the health of the woman or child.


More Sacrifices — Making Hospitals The Norm

In 1880, 35 years after the beginning of Dr. Sims’ experiments, the medical industry began to push the OBGYN field. This happened when hospitals were getting popular, too. 

Medical officials encouraged healthy women — who had until now labored at home successfully — to go to the hospital to give birth. 

They saw birthing women as consumers.

In the United States and many other parts of the world, natural birth stood in sharp contrast to medicalized, surgical birth for women.

But the transition saw a period of dark times.

Instead of success, the death rates of hospital-delivered mothers and children skyrocketed. 

This high death rate in the 1880s prompted policy shifts. 

Medical officials realized how putting healthy pregnant women in a hospital of sick people was more likely to lead to death. The women were around unfamiliar germs, after all. 

The whole thing was ill-planned.

And despite the obvious pattern of healthy birthing women dying in hospitals, they continued to push hospitals all the same. 

The only party who benefitted from this — financially of course — were the medical authorities.

They did improve infection controls which worked as a partial solution. And this alone helped to permanently shift delivery away from home births to hospitals.

And despite the data showing otherwise, officials persisted in marketing hospital births as safer.


The C-Section Come Up

The 1880s also saw the perfection of the C-Section procedure.

While this procedure has saved countless women, it is more expensive. Yet it’s easier and quicker for doctors to perform than natural labor. 

Doctors have taken advantage of this. They often perform C-sections needlessly at the expense of the women and child.

In birth justice, we classify these unnecessary interventions and aggressive practices as obstetric violence.

The reality is they treat women as a source of revenue with procedures piled on that ease the doctor’s — not the woman’s — efforts. 


Why Most OB/GYNs Are Males

With the advancement of so many products and services (bottles, formulas, and C-sections) more men joined the obstetrics and gynecology field. 

Once men decided that they knew women’s bodies better than women, and they could do a better job in this field, the entire practice shifted — just because men wanted it to.

Birth Justice recognizes this injustice as discriminatory toward women, especially black and indigenous women, and a form of cultural appropriation.

Before long, the field of obstetrics was established as a formal medical school sector. 

But women and practicing midwives who attempted to apply to Medical School were routinely shut out and not allowed to study alongside men even though this was their lay practice and profession.

The OB/GYN Field is overrun by men. This was by design.


The Tides Are Turning

Thanks to growing awareness, a shift is now happening. Not only have more women become OB/GYNs, but fewer people are using bottles and formula. 

The erasure of women in the birthing room is no longer as widely accepted. And information about what really constitutes healthy maternal care and birthing is changing. 

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