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Health Care Women Int. 2004 May;25(5):454-80.

Giving birth in the hospital: childbirth experiences of Thai women in northern Thailand.

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  • 1School of Public Health, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.


In this article, I examine how Thai women perceive and experience childbirth in hospitals. The article is based on in-depth interviews with 30 women living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The women's narratives reveal that childbirth was managed within the medical system. The women believed that safety was the primary reason for their choice of birth in the hospital. Women's embodied experiences with hospital birth reveal the "passivity" discourse; women accord total trust to their doctors and very rarely question the many routine procedures in hospitals. It seems that in northern Thai hospitals the involvement of women's partners or their significant others is kept to a minimum. Of interest among postpartum care provided in Thai hospitals in the north is the use of a spotlight to help heal the episiotomy wound. This is an adaptation of Thai traditional confinement practices in the era of modernity. The use of a spotlight in hospital not only provides the women with symbolic ritual but also is believed to assist them in the healing process. Women in general were satisfied with postpartum care received during their hospital stay, except for rooming-in practice. The data suggest some differences between rural poor and urban middle-class women in terms of hospitals of birth, the opportunity to have a family member at birth, and so on. It is clear that middle-class educated women are able to exercise their choices and control over their childbirth experiences much more than rural poor women. I argue that care provided to women during birth needs to take into account women's emotional and subjective experience so that sensitive birthing care can be achieved. This will only make childbirth of many women a more positive one.

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