ABSTRACT

Childbirth in the United Kingdom takes place within a medical context and is defined by medical norms. It is no longer a purely social or personal event, nor is it the specific province of women. This chapter explores the roots of the medicalisation of childbearing and how medicalisation is manifested and perpetuated in the current context of maternity care, with specific reference to dominant medical discourses of risk and risk management. The chapter critically explores the myth of informed choice and the emergence of discourses and activisms which resist the medical control of childbearing. The express aim of the chapter is to deconstruct and make explicit the ways in which medicalisation continues to define and limit the scope of maternity care and how its discourses continue to affect childbearing women. Scamell (2014: 920) asks, ‘Why, despite a socio-political climate, which is steadily moving towards the validation of physiological and out-of-hospital birth, does childbirth continue to be managed as if it were a pathological event?’ This fundamental question is at the core of the continuing medicalisation of a normal life event which is inextricably linked to the nature of women’s embodied experience and the medicalised framing of birth in the media. An ideological position of feminist midwifery is used to explore these issues by reviewing the history, construction and perpetuation of medicalisation in childbearing, proposing an alternative, social model of birth.