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Midwives use rituals to send message that women's bodies know best
Date:12/16/2011

CORVALLIS, Ore. In reaction to what midwives view as the overly medicalized way hospitals deliver babies, they have created birthing rituals to send the message that women's bodies know best.

The midwife experience uses these rituals to send the message that home birth is about female empowerment, strengthening relationships between family and friends, and facilitating participatory experiences that put mothers in control, with the ultimate goal of safe and healthy deliveries less focused on technological intervention.

These are some of the findings from an Oregon State University researcher and licensed midwife who witnessed more than 400 home births in order to document an extensive list of practices utilized by midwives to express the symbolic difference between home and hospital births.

In a study now online in the journal Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Melissa Cheyney, an assistant professor of medical anthropology at OSU, charted specific rituals used by midwives. In addition to witnessing and documenting home deliveries, she also conducted more than 50 in-depth interviews with midwives and their clients.

"This is about invoking the mind-body connection," Cheyney said. "We know, for instance, that midwives have better health outcomes in some areas, such as reduced rates of surgical delivery and labor induction, than hospitals. But I wanted to examine how ritual might play a part in producing these positive health outcomes."

Cheyney said evidence shows that hospital births result in about triple the rate of cesarean section for low-risk women compared to midwife-attended home births. Because of her unique role as both a researcher and midwife, Cheyney was able to gain access to hundreds of home births in various parts of the United States, and also witnessed more than 60 hospital births.

What she found was a network of common practices, messages and beliefs that resulted in midwives constructin
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Contact: Melissa Cheyney
melissa.cheyney@oregonstate.edu
541-737-3895
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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