chapter
4 Pages

Part I:The Politics of Maternity Care INTRODUCTION TO PART I

BySirpa Wrede

For feminist writers of the 1970s, maternity care, with its medicalized and alienating approach to birth, was an apt illustration of women’s oppression by patriarchal social structures. Their critical assessment of the treatment of women at birth led to a blossoming of academic interest in maternity care. Numerous studies were generated, first in Anglo America and somewhat later in other high-income countries. The majority of this early work examined the power relations between physicians, pregnant women, and midwives. As the field developed, research began to present a more complex picture of maternity services, and yet in most studies medical science and the medical profession remained central. Medical science was seen as the source of power for maternity care professionals, allowing hospitals and medical specialists to assume control of the conduct of birth.