1st Edition

Laboring On Birth in Transition in the United States

    392 Pages
    by Routledge

    388 Pages
    by Routledge

    Facing the polar forces of an epidemic of Cesarean sections and epidurals and home-like labor rooms, American birth is in transition. Caught between the most extreme medicalization — best seen in a Cesarean section rate of nearly 30 percent — and a rhetoric of women’s "choices" and "the natural," women and their midwives, doulas, obstetricians, and nurses labor on. Laboring On offers the voices of all of these practitioners, all women trying to help women, as they struggle with this increasingly split vision of birth.

    Updating Barbara Katz Rothman's now-classic In Labor, the first feminist sociological analysis of birth in the United States, Laboring On gives a comprehensive picture of the ever-changing American birth practices and often conflicting visions of birth practitioners. The authors deftly weave compelling accounts of birth work, by midwives, doulas, obstetricians, and nurses, into the larger sociohistorical context of health care practices and activism and offer provocative arguments about the current state of affairs and the future of birth in America.

    I. Laboring in Transition 1. Laboring Then: The Political History of Maternity Care in the United States 2. Laboring Now: Current Cultural Constructions of Pregnancy, Birth, and Mothering II. Midwives in Transition 3. Becoming a Midwife: Varieties of Inspiration 4. Birth Matters: Practicing Midwifery III. Disorganized Labor 5. Women in White: Obstetricians and Labor and Delivery Nurses 6. The New Arrival: Labor Doulas and the Fragmentation of Midwifery and Caregiving


    Wendy Simonds is Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She is author of Abortion at Work and Women and Self-Help Culture; and co-author with Barbara Katz Rothman of Centuries of Solace.

    Barbara Katz Rothman, Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, is author of many works on motherhood-related issues, including In Labor: Women and Power in the Birthplace; The Tentative Pregnancy; Recreating Motherhood; The Book of Life, and Weaving a Family. 

    Bari Meltzer Norman received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. in sociology, magna cum laude, from Barnard College. She lives in Miami.

    Anyone who wants to understand why U.S. women have for so long put up with one of the worst maternity care systems in the world needs to read Laboring On. Today's doulas should read it for ideas of the full potential of their movement. The authors' collaboration gives the book a wonderful and fascinating depth.

    —Ina May Gaskin, author of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

    In this fascinating book, Barbara Katz Rothman updates her pioneering sociological analyses of the paradoxes and contradictions of contemporary American birthways, while her colleagues Wendy Simonds and Bari Meltzer Norman show us how those contradictions characterize the daily working lives of birth practitioners. A must-read!

    —Robbie Davis-Floyd, coeditor, Mainstreaming Midwives: The Politics of Change

    Without a doubt, Laboring On is now the book that must be read by anyone who wants to understand the nature and politics of modern American birth. Students and scholars alike will appreciate the authors' breadth and depth of scholarship, as well as their crisp, jargon-free writing.

    —Rose Weitz, Professor of Sociology and of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University and co-author of Labor Pains: Modern Midwives and Home Birth

    Laboring On is sure to become a benchmark book for those who are committed to understanding and changing how childbirth is accomplished in the United States. Written in an accessible and welcoming style, this book should have a wide interest and influence.

    —Peter Conrad, Harry Coplan Professor of Social Sciences, Brandeis University

    "Laboring On gives a sensible perspective, and accessible overview of midwifery, obstetrics, and birth in America. It is jargonless, clear, compelling, and very well written: it was sometimes actually difficult to put down." -- Feminist Collections, Vol. 29, No. 3-4, Summer-Fall 2008