A birth centre's encounters with discourses of childbirth: how resistance led to innovation
Article first published online: 16 MAR 2007
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Sociology of Health & Illness
Volume 29, Issue 2, pages 216–232, March 2007
How to Cite
Walsh, D. J. (2007), A birth centre's encounters with discourses of childbirth: how resistance led to innovation. Sociology of Health & Illness, 29: 216–232. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.00545.x
- Issue published online: 16 MAR 2007
- Article first published online: 16 MAR 2007
- birth centre;
- care as gift
An ethnographic study of a free-standing birth centre uncovered a site of intense contestation. Two prominent childbirth discourses attempting to inscribe their orthodoxies on staff and women users encountered stern and persistent resistance. Using postmodern theory, this resistance is conceptualised as nomadic activity, as space is made at the margins of discourse for a difference and diversity to manifest. The relationship between discourse and women's agency is layered and non-linear as the presence of dissonant data indicates. The birth centre, however, actualises a number of contrasting ways of ‘being’ and ‘doing’ that appear to serve the interests of staff and women well. In particular, ‘nomadic’ midwifery practice and a ‘care as gift’ orientation challenges the biomedical model that defines the parameters of normal and the ‘vigil of care’ discourse that regulates the professional/patient relationship. Birth centres may encourage novel and eclectic ways of providing childbirth care.