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Accepted Paper:

Induction of labour and the unwellness of maternity care in the United Kingdom  
Cassandra Yuill (City, University of London) Mairi Harkness (University of Stirling) Christine McCourt (City, University of London) Helen Cheyne (University of Stirling)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses induction (IOL) as a process of (re)production befit with disembodied practices and incongruities involving shifting definitions of risk and labour. Engagement with IOL can be a lens through which we highlight what is unwell with maternity care but also how it can be improved.

Paper long abstract:

Around one-third of pregnant women and people undergo induction of labour (IOL) in the UK. Rates have risen in recent years, and induction now represents a substantial workload in NHS maternity services already under significant pressure. IOL is offered when the risks of continuing pregnancy are believed to outweigh the risks of the baby being born. Yet, its optimal use is itself speculative, given an underdeveloped evidence base on timing and outcomes. Discourse around IOL policy in the UK is entangled with notions of risk and safety (Yuill et al., 2022), laying bare how women and people’s pregnant and birthing bodies continue to be a source of unease and a nexus of social understandings of health and mortality.

Drawing on research conducted in England and Scotland, this paper focuses on the state of IOL in the UK, both from the perspectives of those providing this care and those receiving it. Through our interlocutors’ intersecting experiences, we unfold how IOL has become a process of (re)production befit with disembodied and mechanistic practices and utterances as well as incongruities that involve shifting definitions of risk and labour. We also outline how this process renders pregnant women ‘docile’, relegating them to a ‘good patient’ role and removing their bodily agency, and contributes to moral distress among healthcare professionals. Finally, we discuss how anthropological engagement with IOL can be a lens through which we highlight not only what is unwell with contemporary maternity care but also how it can be improved in the future.

Panel P50
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
  Session 1 Thursday 13 April, 2023, -