chapter  18
The birthplace and birth process
ByJoan Raphael-Leff
Pages 20

Birth is a numinous event which arouses unconscious fears and fantasies relating to the inherent emotional attraction and repulsion of maternal flesh. The manner in which birth is conducted, and its venue in any given society serves as an index of cultural values and reflects community beliefs about women, men, bodies and babies. The newly delivered woman is generally regarded as particularly dangerous to men, as is the menstruating woman. In a rapidly changing civilization such as our own, procedures not only vary in different birthplaces but even in the same hospital over short periods of time or in different departments. Once again, a glimpse of labour and birth practices in different cultures might serve to throw our own ideas into perspective. In societies where the sexual partner is allowed in the birth-chamber during labour, his physical presence and ministrations underwrite their original coitus.