ABSTRACT: As the tools of birth change from familiar household objects, such as hammocks and beds, to high-technology objects, such as delivery tables and fetal monitors, significant changes occur in the ability to give physical support to women during labor and in who owns the tools and the information they provide. Data derived from the laboring woman herself are less sought after and less valued.

Ironically, high-technology procedures and artifacts are more easily transported than are the household artifacts of birth, which are embedded in the matrix of daily life. When different levels of technology are available, the solution to a problem during childbirth is usually sought on the next higher level of technology–i.e., medication or surgery, even when a simpler approach, such as human comforting or ambulation, might work more quickly and effectively.