Experiences of pre-eclampsia: developing the feminist critique of medicalised childbirth

Savage, Julie (2007). Experiences of pre-eclampsia: developing the feminist critique of medicalised childbirth. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fa80


This thesis explores women’s experiences of pre-eclampsia and attempts to construct a critique of the existing feminist challenge to medicalised childbirth. The argument presented here suggests that an analysis of the experiences of women with serious pregnancy complications is required to develop this challenge, which presently results in the marginalisation of such women. This thesis does not claim to present a fully developed critique of medicalised childbirth. Rather, it intends to present a challenge to the existing conventional feminist critique and identify a possible way forward whereby such development might be attained. Based on a self-selecting sample of thirty women, all of whom had experienced pre-eclampsia, the research explored their changing perceptions of pregnancy, their subjective experiences of pre-eclampsia and their ideas on how improvements might be made to health care provision. Face-to-face and telephone interviews were the primary methods, but some women chose to supply written accounts of their experiences guided by the thematic scheme of the interview schedule. A subset of six interviews and written accounts of the women’s significant others, namely their husbands and mothers, was also included. The analysis strategy adopted was informed by the principles of grounded theory. The contribution of the thesis lies, firstly, in challenging conventional feminist assumptions that have provided the foundation for the existing critique of medicalised childbirth. It is suggested that these assumptions can be understood as deriving from the way in which the challenge has been constructed within the constraints of binary thinking. Secondly, the thesis begins the process of remedying this problem by raising the possibility of an approach which is constructed beyond binary thinking, aided partly through an analysis of the construction of risk by childbearing women. This theoretical suggestion is then related, more briefly, to maternity policy and midwifery practice.

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