Agency and Empowerment in the Childbirth Process: The Effect of Medicalization on Women's Decision Making
Kauffman, Alicia Jane
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Over the past decade, rates of caesarean section births and other interventions in childbirth have increased substantially. With increased medicalization of childbirth, it is often viewed as an illness requiring treatment rather than a natural process that women are equipped to handle with little intervention in most cases. A qualitative study was completed that included interviews with nine women participants who had previously given birth to at least one child. The findings elaborate on how women navigated the medical structures of childbirth in order to assert themselves as decision makers in the process, how they related to their bodies during childbirth, and how they educated themselves about childbirth. Seven categories emerged, of which two dominant areas, power of words and provider and nurse/doula relationships, affected women’s empowerment in childbirth. A key finding is the way prenatal appointments were structured and how they began the process of constraint experienced by women.