Friday, December 17, 2004

The 3 Rs: Reading, Writing and Reproduction

A friend said I should investigate whether “alternative” childbirth is ever taught in high schools as part of a health education or other class. I spent about half an hour and was not able to find anything to indicate that it is.

As I think back on my own high school education, I don’t know that childbirth was taught at all, even in biology. To the degree reproduction was covered in biology, it was all about anatomy and embryology. We were not required to take a health class, and health/body issues were not covered in gym.

I was pleased to see that many high schools do include childbirth as part of their health class curriculum. If the testimonials on the Empathy Belly page are to be believed, some classes go so far as to let their students simulate some of the physical effects of pregnancy.

As an example, the Boulder School District includes human reproduction in its tenth grade health curriculum and has as a learning outcome that students be able to describe the stages of pregnancy and childbirth (see page 41 of the PDF). Fresno schools include an exercise where high school students are asked to consider how they would answer young children’s questions about pregnancy and childbirth (e.g. “How does the baby get out of the mommy?”) (see Standard Six in their curriculum).

Now I suppose teen mothers are not getting their actual childbirth education through a high school class. Hopefully they ARE getting it from somewhere. I have not worked with any teen mothers yet to get a sense of what information they’re given and by whom. I assume that as in most other areas of a teen’s life, their primary source of information is friends. I don’t imagine teen culture having much exposure to or experience with alternative childbirth. Likewise, my suspicion is that even in towns where homebirths or nurse midwife practices exist, teens are steered toward OB/GYNs. So I don’t imagine there are many places where they would butt up against “alternative” birth culture.

This could be an opportunity for midwives, doulas and childbirth educators to approach their local high schools and ask if they could do a guest lecture when the class discusses childbirth. Plant the seed early that there are many ways to give birth.


Blogger Julie said...

The Empathy Belly is really interesting; I'm very impressed that it works as a deterrent. The "pro-lifers" would argue that it's preferable to carry the baby for 9 months, then give it up for adoption, rather than terminate the pregnancy, right? But these kids are finding out what you with your hyperemesis, and I with my three relatively uneventful pregnancies, already knew: the 9 months of pregnancy take a huge toll on the mom. Maybe 9 months of discomfort isn't a reason to take a baby's life (devil's advocate here), but neither should it be discounted.

7:42 PM  
Blogger doulicia said...

And I like it that boys can wear it, too. To get some sense of what girlfriends (or just girls they might be sleeping with) could go through if the unplanned-for occurs. I think I'd make girls wear it for a week straight. That would give an even better sense of what they're in for.

And as you know, an Empathy Belly can not simulate mood swings, indigestion, water retention or constipation!

9:00 PM  
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