13 Pages

Risk in pregnancy and birth: are we talking to ourselves?

WithKirstie Coxon

In this editorial, I explore the contribution of the recent special issue of Health, Risk & Society (Volume 16, Issue 1), and three related papers published in the current volume (Volume 16, Issue 6), and identify themes and concepts which are consistent across these papers. The aims of the special issue were twofold; the call for papers invited articles on the topic of risk in relation to pregnancy and childbirth, and which sought to explore risk theorisation in this field. Looking at these papers as a body of work, I explore the breadth of this collective endeavour, and identify areas which have been researched at some depth, whilst drawing attention to other areas which manage to evade our theoretical gaze. I also reflect on the ways in which these papers have, independently and together, added to the field of risk theorisation, and propose some future directions which might usefully help move beyond the current limits of our enquiry. The combined body of work in these issues represents a considerable resource, and one which makes a clear contribution to contemporary understandings of risk, pregnancy and birth, however I argue that of late, the focus of enquiry has become narrowed, with much of our research providing new evidence from the perspective of relatively privileged women from high-income countries, who have good access to safe, high quality maternity care. The sum of this work is now such that it is possible to synthesise themes across studies and settings, which is valuable to our understanding, but the lack of research amongst women from developing nations, or amongst those with less privilege in high-income countries, means that our resource is incomplete, and fails to do justice to women’s broader experience of pregnancy and birth. Developments of risk theorisation are evident in the collected papers; authors have interrogated the positioning of individuals as subjects, and drawn new conclusions about historicised risk, and practices of resistance to risk discourse. I review these developments in this editorial, and also propose that the collection generates many new dimensions to our initial understanding of the ‘virtual object’ of risk in the context of pregnancy and birth. I conclude by outlining potential new directions and approaches to meet some of the identified gaps in our exploration and theorisation of risk in pregnancy and birth.