chapter
16 Pages

Pregnancy, risk perception and use of complementary and alternative medicine

WithMary Mitchell a, Stuart McClean b

Pregnancy and childbirth are events of major significance in women’s lives. In western countries women are increasingly using complementary and alternative medicine during this time. However, there is little research exploring the factors that are influential in women’s motivations to use complementary and alternative medicine during pregnancy and childbirth. This article draws on data from a narrative-based study designed to explore women’s experiences of complementary and alternative medicine use during pregnancy and childbirth. The study involved 14 women living in the South-west of England, who had used complementary and alternative medicine during pregnancy and childbirth. We elicited narratives by interviewing women two to three times. The women in our study used complementary and alternative medicine both as a response to the uncertainty of pregnancy and childbirth and as a defence against manufactured risk, and in doing so indicated their desire to transform an unpredictable and unmanageable future into one which is more predictable and manageable. It was a means of dealing with the stress and anxiety associated with uncertainty which has to be dealt with. Their consciousness of the risks of biomedicine developed though the practice of complementary and alternative medicine, and their high educational status and relative affluence facilitated their choices. There was a tension evident in their narratives between a need to ‘be in control’ versus a desire for a natural childbirth without medical intervention. Women in the study showed their autonomy by actively pursuing complementary and alternative medicine while at the same time selectively using expert medical knowledge.