Reading birth and death: a history of obstetric thinking

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Cork University Press, 1998 - Medical - 343 pages
The issue of who should control childbirth remains one of the outstanding conflicts for the women's movement, despite almost four decades of campaigning for change. Its continuing relevance suggests that the problem of exercising choice and personal agency remains a political snuggle for each woman who faces an institutional system of maternity care which demands compliance with its norms.Since the eighteenth century, obstetric discourse has had a decisive impact on the experiences of birth in countless women's lives. Using the historical records and writings of Irish doctors and maternity hospitals, this book analyses the core beliefs and practices of obstetric science. These beliefs reveal a central theme of women's incompetence in birth and traces how such a radically gendered account has been so detrimental to women. The author argues that the problem of personal agency which women face stems directly from the way the science has worked.In exploring the currently important thesis of discourse and power in relation to scientific thinking, Reading Birth & Death makes an important contribution to the fields of obstetrics, midwifery, childbirth education, sociology of the body, cultural studies and women's studies.

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Women Power and Obstetric Rationality
Obstetric Pairings and Knowledge Formation
The Problem of Puerperal Fever

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About the author (1998)

Murphy-Lawless, University of Dublin.

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