1st Edition

Exploring the Dirty Side of Women's Health

Edited By Mavis Kirkham Copyright 2007
    320 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    320 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this book, a team of international contributors examine bodies, leakage and boundaries, illuminating the contradictions and dilemmas in women’s healthcare.

    Using the concept of pollution, this book highlights how women and health issues are categorised, and health workers and women are confined to roles and places defined as socially appropriate. The book explores in-depth current and historical practices, such as:

    • childbirth and midwifery practice
    • policies and social practices around breastfeeding
    • gynaecological nursing, female incontinence and sexually transmitted infections
    • miscarriages and termination of pregnancy.

    Addressing things out of place, from the idea of ‘dirty work’ to feeling ‘dirty’, from diagnoses that disrupt our self-image to beliefs and practices which undermine health service provision, this book uses the contradictions in our thinking around pollution and power to stimulate thinking around women’s health.

    Chapter 1: Language and Status: the disappearing and reappearing ‘midwife’ - Lesley Barclay, Charles Darwin University, Australia

    Chapter 2: Genetic traits as pollution: the case of 'White English' carriers of sickle cell/thalassaemia traits - Simon Dyson, Director of TASC Unit, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK

    Chapter 3: Midwives: defiling women! - Kuldip Bharj, Head of Division of Midwifery, University of Leeds, UK

    SECTION 2: Leakage and Labelling

    Chapter 4: Containing the leaking body: female incontinence and formal health care - Joanne Jordan, Lecturer, Queen’s University, Belfast

    Chapter 5: Leaky bodies and boundaries: Older women and early miscarriage - Julia Frost, University of Bristol, UK

    Chapter 6: "I just felt really dirty": women’s responses to a diagnosis of chlamydial infection - Hilary Piercy, Nurse Lecturer, University of Sheffield


    Chapter 7: ‘Resisting the gaze’: The subversive nature of breastfeeding - Fiona Dykes, Reader in Maternal and Infant Health, University of Central Lancashire

    Chapter 8: The pollution of objective scientific practice by anecdotal stories of personal, vicarious or cultural experience: the denial of embodied knowledge - Mary Smale, Breastfeeding Counsellor and Tutor, National Childbirth Trust

    Chapter 9: Not in public please: Breastfeeding as dirty work - Susan Battersby, Lecturer, University of Sheffield, UK

    Chapter 10: "Milk for Africa and the neighbourhood" but socially isolated - Cheryl Benn, Associate Professor, Massey University, New Zealand

    Chapter 11: Breastfeeding: a time for caution - Alison Spiro, Health Visitor, UK

    SECTION 4: Midwives and Dirt

    Chapter 12: Birth Dirt - Helen Callaghan, Freelance Midwifery Researcher, Australia

    Chapter 13: Pollution and Safety – controls of a secular world - Trudy Stevens, Lecturer in Midwifery, Anglia Polytechnic University

    Chapter 14: Drained and dumped on: the generation and accumulation of emotional toxic waste in community midwifery - Ruth Deery, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield and Mavis Kirkham, Professor of Midwifery, University of Sheffield

    SECTION 5: History: Containing Birth Pollution

    Chapter 15: A clean front passage: Dirt, douches and disinfectants at St Helen’s Hospital, Wellington, New Zealand, 1907-1922 - Pamela Wood, Associate Professor, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and Maralyn Foureur , Clinical Professor of Midwifery, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

    Chapter 16: The Thanksgiving of women after childbirth: a blessing in disguise? - Rachel Newell, Lecturer in Midwifery, University of Dundee

    section 6: Dais

    Chapter 17: Rethinking ‘pollution’—Understanding ‘narak’ - Janet Chawla, Director, MATRIKA, New Delhi, India

    Chapter 18: Dais’ Work in Gujarat, India - Subadhra Rai, recent PhD graduate from University of Alberta, Canada

    Chapter 19: The dirt has to come away - Margaret Chesney, Senior Lecturer/Director of Midwifery Education, University of Salford

    CHAPTER 20: Pollution and women in sickness, health, birth and work - Mavis Kirkham, Professor of Midwifery, University of Sheffield


    Mavis Kirkham is Professor of Midwifery at the University of Sheffield. Here current research interests are in why midwives leave the service, and why some of them stay. She has edited three other books in the field.