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Accepted Paper:

“For the baby, you cannot take any risk”: technological promises of caesarean birth in rural Bangladesh  
Janet Perkins (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Bangladesh has experienced a precipitous shift toward surgical birth. This paper elucidates meanings of caesarean birth among women in rural settings to argue that caesarean is imagined as a panacea for averting risks, particularly for the baby, and has reconfigured moralities around birth care.

Paper long abstract:

Birth through caesarean is rising worldwide, including throughout the global South. These trends are rightfully met with concern within anthropology and global health circles. Bangladesh has experienced a particularly precipitous shift toward surgical birth, with a ten-fold increase in just over a decade, with most recent estimates suggesting that 33% of births are through caesarean. Much of the national discourse, also reflected in global health discourses, places the onus of ‘unnecessarily’ increasing caesarean rates on women wishing to circumvent the pain and inconvenience of vaginal birth. However, it is critical to understand what aspirations towards and use of surgical birth mean for the women whose bodies are concerned. Based on ethnographic data generated in Kushtia district, Bangladesh, this paper elucidates meanings of caesarean birth among women in peri-urban and rural settings as they navigate a new world of maternal health possibilities in the form of advanced maternal health technologies. It argues that, in Kushtia, advanced maternal health technologies figure centrally in ideas of averting risk for a life transition imagined as increasingly laden with potential injury or harm, particularly for the baby, and opens futurities of birth otherwise. While the promises of surgical birth tend to be oversold in the peri-urban and rural peripheries, where clinical standards are challenging to ensure, conceptualisations of caesarean as the ‘safest’ mode of birth reconfigure moralities of care which manifest in ideas of what is a ‘good’ or ‘right’ type of birth, and familial efforts and responsibilities to ensure the safest type of birth.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 2 Friday 14 April, 2023, -