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Accepted Paper:

Crafting birthing ecologies: the art of midwifery care  
Annekatrin Skeide (Ernst-Abbe-Hochschule Jena) Maya Lane (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Developing the concept of birthing ecologies, this paper proposes a sensory material methodology to studying midwifery birthing care practices. This shifts the focus away from dominant evidence based approaches towards realizing and acknowledging a midwifery-specific knowledge corpus.

Paper long abstract:

In European countries, most births take place in hospitals, where midwives and obstetricians work together. Even though midwives are the primary professionals legally responsible for birthing care, obstetricians are often in charge in clinical surroundings. The academisation of midwifery is underway, fuelled by the hope that a ‘proper’ midwifery science will legitimize midwifery birthing care.

This nascent midwifery science faces challenges: adopting medical paradigms and principles such as evidence-based medicine, venerated as ‘scientific’ and rational, promise a gain of professional recognition. Evidence-based midwifery, however, does not permit an understanding of the particularities of midwifery care, its relational and artisanal dimensions, subsumed under midwifery art. They risk eroding midwifery-specific knowledge and birthing care practices.

Drawing on insights from anthropology of care, we propose a methodology to study midwifery birthing care practices, aiming to theorise midwifery practices on their own terms. We engage with identifying and applying a care-specific methodology which reflects the processual, contingent, and relational character of midwifery care practices beyond a mere application of evidence. Building on works in anthropology of the senses, we develop a sensory-material approach, thereby realizing and acknowledging a midwifery-specific knowledge corpus. Employing ideas from STS, we propose the concept of ‘birthing ecologies’ to explore sensory-material modes of togetherness in midwifery birthing care techniques. In doing so, we move past power dynamics between obstetricians and midwives. Alternatively, we articulate the intertwinements of medicine and midwifery, contributing to shaping midwifery science into a resonant, reflective extension, and theoretical condensation of midwifery care practices.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 3 Friday 14 April, 2023, -