Pushing Choice: The Medicalisation of Childbirth




Masdottir, Solveig Ros

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Childbirth is an essential part of reproductive politics which have largely focused on expanding choice for women’s reproductive lives. Childbirth in the west has been medicalised, which means that authoritative knowledge was moved into the hands of the patriarchal medical establishment through displacement of traditional midwives, casting women as ‘hysterical’ and inherently sick and seeing birth as a medical event and technology as the appropriate way to deal with birth and the body. In the United States, with surveillance and risk factors, each woman in labour is considered in medical danger and treated accordingly, curtailing women’s ability to make decisions about their bodies and birth. The alternative or natural childbirth movement has resisted this form of medicalised birth, but within the movement, pressure can also be found on women to perform femininity and achieve a perfect birth. A focus on choice is therefore limited without also considering structural factors.



childbirth, women's health, feminism, choice, medicalisation