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July 21, 2006



I agree that women do better birthing with other women but I also think part of modesty is recognizing that births are not within our control. In the natural vs. epidural debates you don't hear recognition of the fact that everyone's experience is different and 'natural' might not be right for all women or at different times. I've done it both ways natural 1st time and 2nd time, had to have an epidural because things went wrong. I used a doula both times.

But I agree with your general point.

Alexandra Foley

I definitely agree with your point that women may be more comfortable when birthing with other women. I was, however, very surprised when studying the Bradley Method (a popular drug-free delivery method) to find that the book we used was FILLED with photos of nude women in various birthing stages accompanied by their near-nude husbands. These were women who were birthing in Bradley-ideal settings (often at home or in birthing centers but never at hospitals) and my husband and I mused while at the hospital at how highly inappropriate it would have been to both be nude in that setting with 4,000 different attendants waltzing in at any given moment!

I think the rational for women and husbands to be nude was because the sensation of skin on skin (the very sensation that got you in that situation to begin with :) was somehow soothing and calming. For me, being touched in a loving way by my husband and not an impersonal nurse or doctor was key to having a successful drug-free experience. I don't think that being nude would have enhanced my comfort level.

liz neville

Two things I was sure of when I was preparing to have my first child-- one, that I'd only want my mom there, and two that I'd be embarrassed by being helpless or near-naked in the general commotion-- both turned out to be wrong. First, I only wanted my husband, who helped me through the pain beautifully (the epidural was not fully effective) and two, when I was *in extremis* I was unaware and unconcerned about who saw me and how I looked. Panic is not a natural state.

So I do agree that modesty is a natural impulse for women. In clinical settings the natural impulse may be overridden by reasonable adjustments. But even as I get older and my natural modesty should be worn away by the common events of life, including childbirth, I become more aware of myself in relation to others. I'm even more aware of the impact and more likely to cover up.


I can't help but smile as I read your post. Nudity in the delivery room? Why do you think air conditioning was invented? I will, however, recommend it while laboring in a nice, cool jacuzzi, followed by an epidural. Natural birth (been there for 4 out of 6 of my own) makes as much sense to me as farming without power equipment, although it did help me learn how much I was capable of handling without intervention. 20 or more years ago, the health of the child was much more of an issue than today, and since I now know how much of a pain they can be after birthing them :) I figure we deserve a break by the time we get to labor & delivery! Good thing we have choices of female physicians and labor assistants these days.

Simi Valley Sophist

The concept of modesty is clearly cultural and varies within cultures, call them sub-cultures if you like. The predominant Judeo-Christian culture in the U.S. generally skews to the modest, bordering upon body phobia. That segment of society which is more exhibitionistic is expressing blatant sexualism, which is contrary to the foundational culture. The more holistic segment of society tends to have a more relaxed and healthy view of the body, which may translate in less need for modesty.

One of my daughters, who is quite modest, lost all of her modesty during her natural childbirth, and she just did not care who observed her birthing her daughter. The modesty returned almost immediately after the birth. Go figure!


Life trumps modesty. A healthy delivery - even today - is not to be taken for granted. A normal situation can turn into a life-threatening emergency in seconds. It happened to me, and I thank God I was already at the hospital. During my three deliveries, I didn't care if men, women or martians were examining me as long as they were highly trained professionals.


I want to add to your blog with another note. My daughter just had a baby boy taken early by C-section. She is 20 years old. She did what ever the Dr. or nurses said because she doesn't know anything. I just want to say that the birthing process should be that of mother and child and that the nursing staff should encourage the mom to be with her baby not try to separate her from the child. I feel that now the machines in hospitals are taken over basic common sense about having a child. Is a warmer better than a mother's love and her holding the child wrapped up ...ABSSOLUTELY NOT! A mother's love can heal a child!!! IT is a shame that we have come to this in america.


I think it's unfortunate that so many women say modesty, privacy and dignity go out the door when childbirth is concerned...
It needn't be like that...
If you plan carefully and listen to other women, it really helps.
I was warned away from several birthing centres because they use delivery suites where beds are divided by sheets - with zero privacy. Also, beware of large teaching hospitals or take a protector with you - someone who can stand up for you.
I'm a very private person.
I also don't believe childbirth is a spectator sport and had no wish for an audience.
I made this clear to my female gyn, who totally understood. She's also covered by female doctors (I met and liked them)
I also requested a female midwife ahead of time.
I gave birth privately with a midwife and my trusted Dr - a circle of women.
It was such a comfortable and warm environment. I really believe this helped me enormously...eased my fears and made for an easy delivery. (well, relatively easy!)
I'm so grateful to these wonderful women for my positive birth experience.
My husband missed the birth...our son was early and my poor husband was away on a business trip - he rushed home, but missed the delivery by 25 minutes.
So many women tell me shocking stories about their labor and delivery - these things shouldn't happen...
These women don't talk about pain or injury...they talk about indignity and the violations to their bodily privacy - these things can be more scarring than stitches and bruising.
No more kids for us, but so grateful I didn't go through the trauma that so many women describe...

Marjorie Starr

My comments are addressed to "Life Trumps Modesty". I would say yes in your experience. In mine no.

I was sexually abused in a hospital in a very public cruel and degrading way just prior to the birth of my first child. Today it is easily recognized as a form of sexual assault, the doctor involved made sexual comments afterwards and the young mother left completely devastatated.

More than twenty years after the fact I realized I had issues surrounding this horrific experience.

Now an advocate for same gender care for victims of sexual assault and the evidence to support it, let it be known that not everyone feels the way you do. Frankly, I'd rather be dead then be forced to have intimate care performed by men. It would be another sexual assault for me, it would be against my will.

Medical Patient Modesty

Many women and their husbands are more comfortable with having only female gynecologists to deliver their babies. I find it odd that some people think you must forget about your modesty when you give birth to a child. Some people think that you will be in too much pain during labor to care about your modesty, but that is not true. I am a Christian woman who feels like that the husband of a woman should be the only man in the world who can see certain parts of her body and for the wife of a man to be the only woman in the world who can see certain parts of his body. I feel this is very special and sacred. There are a number of other reasons why women don't want male gynecologists under any circumstances.

I am working on starting a non-profit organization, Medical Patient Modesty.

For women who only want female ob/gyns, you should make sure that there's no chance that a male doctor would deliver your baby. It is best to select an all female ob/gyn practice that doesn't share rotations with other practices that have male ob/gyns. Check out some tips for OB/GYN Patients.


Modesty is a big deal to me surrounding birth. Even with female attendants they need to be people I know and agree to being there. I had my first in a hospital and definitely did NOT like that random nurses could just come in and no one seemed to care how exposed I was and accommodate female modesty. I know they are probably trying to be "professional" but I find it terribly inappropriate to touch a persons private areas as nonchalantly as a mechanic touches the parts of a car. I'd prefer they avert their eyes and very respectfully ask a patient's permission before any viewing or contact. Of course I would have to be immodest if there were some dire emergency but that wouldn't make it okay, it would just be something I had to suffer for the health of my child but just because it was an emergency wouldn't mean "I don't care" or that I wouldn't suffer any mental trauma from being over-exposed. Even just concerning my own safety, if I was in a situation where emergency personnel had to cut away my clothes to save my life I would find it terribly embarrassing but being terribly embarrassed beats imminent death. Bottom line, if I have a safe choice I will choose privacy and a trusted female physician.

Cady Driver

Simi Valley Sophist.... According to you, if I prefer to be more modest, then I have a "body phobia", but if I choose to let it all hang out, then I have a "relaxed and healthy view of my body"?

I was just curious if you had any facts or research to back up those claims. Please share them if you do.


Pam (Wildacat fan)

What can we as women do to stop the violation by doctors and nurses, who for some reason, think it is okay to do this to females.
Would they do this to males while they are getting procedures on their penises. I think not.
Also, what can we do to help young, gullible females know that their husbands or boyfriends do not have the right to invite her mother in law, into the delivery room while her body is exposed. And darn well better not invite his dad. Not the man's right, and don't say it's his baby too.
Females, stand strong and be united, as our rights to privacy and modesty, are slowly being taken away. Do not allow men to dominate the birthing space. It is not their space to dominate.

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