chapter
6 Pages

Pregnancy, birth and risk: an introduction

WithBarbara Katz Rothman

In this introduction, I use my nearly 40 years of work in the area to reflect on the total medicalisation of pregnancy and childbirth that informs even the critical sociology that purports to examine the issue. The risks that are faced in pregnancy and birth are not only the inherent dangers that midwives have worked with across time and space but also those particular risks introduced by medicalisation itself. Medicalisation blinds us to those risks on the one hand, while it blinds us to the skills and knowledge that midwives and birthing women themselves have on the other. The women and midwives researched in these articles show us that in pregnancy and birth, as in most of life, it is not just a matter of ‘real risk’ versus ‘perceived risk’ as risk theorists (too) often describe it. There is rather an intelligent balancing of risks, weighing of risks and contextualising of risks. What we see in this issue is a glimpse into the ways in which people intelligently, creatively and determinedly balance risks.