1st Edition

Risk, Pregnancy and Childbirth

Edited By Kirstie Coxon, Mandie Scamell, Andy Alaszewski Copyright 2017
    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    200 Pages
    by Routledge

    Over the last hundred years, pregnancy and childbirth has become increasingly safe – yet it is still a site of risk, and a contested ground on which health professionals and pregnant women both face high costs of error. In this context, all those involved in managing pregnancy and birth are expected to identify and mitigate risk: pregnant women are subject to increasing surveillance to ensure the safety of the unborn foetus, and every aspect of childbearing is increasingly medicalised. This publication brings together fascinating social science research to explore the ways in which risk is both created and managed in pregnancy and childbirth. The introductory chapters reflect on the changing social context of childbirth, in particular the medicalisation of both pregnancy and childbirth with development of specialist practitioners, such as obstetricians and midwives who claim to have the knowledge, technology and skills to identify and manage the risks involved. The next three chapters that examine the ways in which women’s behaviour during pregnancy is constructed as potentially risky -- for example smoking, drinking alcohol and taking drugs, and how these risks are monitored and mitigated. The final two parts of the book address the construction of and responses to both medicalisation and risk in childbirth. Altogether, it represents a valuable insight into the complex world of pregnancy, childbirth and risk. This book brings together editorials and articles originally published in special and open issues of Health, Risk and Society.

    1. Risk in pregnancy and birth: are we talking to ourselves? Kirstie Coxon

    The Emergence of Risk Discourses in Pregnancy and Childbirth: Medicalisation, Feminism and Eugenics

    2. Pregnancy, birth and risk: an introduction Barbara Katz Rothman

    3. ‘Knowledge is power’: risk and the moral responsibilities of the expectant mother at the turn of the twentieth century Helga Kristin Hallgrimsdottir

    Risky Pregnancy Behaviour: Self-governance and surveillance of pregnant women,

    4. ‘I don’t think it’s risky, but...’: pregnant women’s risk perceptions of maternal drinking and smoking Raphaël Hammer

    5. The risk of being ‘too honest’: drug use, stigma and pregnancy Camille Stengel

    6. ‘Why take chances?’ Advice on alcohol intake to pregnant and non-pregnant women in four Nordic countries Anna Leppo

    Birth and Risk Management: Managing the Risks of the Birthplace

    7. To what extent are women free to choose where to give birth? How discourses of risk, blame and responsibility influence birth place decisions Kirstie Coxon

    8. Negotiating risky bodies: childbirth and constructions of risk Rachelle Joy Chadwick

    9. Pluralist risk cultures: the sociology of childbirth in Vanuatu Karen Lane

    10. Time, risk and midwife practice: the vaginal examination Mandie Scamell

    11. Pregnancy, risk perception and use of complementary and alternative medicine Mary Mitchell

    12. Fateful moments and the categorisation of risk: Midwifery practice and the ever-narrowing window of normality during childbirth Mandie Scamell


    Kirstie Coxon is Associate Professor in the Department of Midwifery, Kingston and St George's Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, London. She is a registered nurse and midwife with a masters degree in Health Policy and a PhD in Health Studies, and has developed a publication profile in relation to risk in maternity care.

    Mandie Scamell is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Health Sciences, City, University London. Mandie is a registered midwife who has a doctoral degree in social policy. She has a growing publication profile in risk and midwifery practice.

    Andy Alaszewski is Emeritus Professor at the University of Kent and founding editor of Health Risk and Society. He is an applied social scientist who has been involved in research on health policy and risk for over 40 years.