During your study, you'll have gained some insights about the changing and sometimes contentious issues surrounding women's experiences of childbirth, summarised below.
- Over time, a biomedical perspective has gradually influenced and come to dominate the maternity care most women receive in the western world. Biomedicine and technological innovation have reached all aspects of maternity care, from pre-conception care to childbirth itself. The role of the midwife has also changed over time.
- There have been challenges to this biomedical discourse, with alternative ways of thinking about childbirth, which stress a more social model of health. These can be seen in the views from organisations such as the National Childbirth Trust and the Association of Radical Midwives. A more pluralistic vision of childbirth has developed, such as that seen in recent policy recommendations.
- Underpinning these different ways of thinking about childbirth are the different values of paternalism and egalitarianism, and these are reflected in the practice of maternity care and in women’s experiences of childbirth.
- The concept of individualised, client-centred maternity care has gathered momentum since the late twentieth century, with the emphasis on choice and practice centred on the service user. However, the extent to which parents can articulate real choice remains questionable.