Birth, in ‘the West’,1 has long been represented as a critical time in a woman’s life when she needs to be introspective, focused completely on the labour process and on ensuring her baby’s safe passage into the world. Birth is also widely considered to be a private affair. Although health and medical professionals are sometimes present to assist, the only other people who usually share the birth process with mothers are their nearest and dearest. Occasionally friends (usually women) are involved but birth is not considered to be a ‘spectator sport’. Birthing women have long been expected to ‘perform’ (Butler 1990) birth in particular ways in particular contexts. The regulatory gender, social and cultural practices that surround birth are established through repeated performances of expected behaviors. Birth is widely understood to be an intimate and profound event. Shelia Kitzinger (1989: 7), a well-known pregnancy and childbirth educator, writes of birth ‘It is exciting, awe-inspiring and deeply satisfying.’