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Maternal autonomy

02 June 2016
10 min read
Volume 24 · Issue 5

Abstract

Policing Pregnancy, a conference focusing on the issues of risk and choice in maternal autonomy, raised interesting questions about how best to support pregnant women.

In the UK today, childbirth is relatively safe. Despite this, there are reports that fear of birth is on the rise. One reason may be the growing emphasis on risks associated with pregnancy and birth. Rather than celebrating pregnancy as a happy time in a woman's life, there is a tendency to view it through a lens of anxiety, focusing on her vulnerability and potential hazards.

How does this prevailing attitude affect women's autonomy to make choices during pregnancy and birth, and how can midwives balance the need to mitigate risk with the role of supporting women? This question was at the centre of a conference held in London in April, entitled ‘Policing Pregnancy: maternal autonomy, risk and responsibility’. The event was jointly organised by Birthrights, the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent, and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). It featured speakers from the maternity services, sociology, law, education and research, who discussed issues around maternal autonomy focusing on three domains: alcohol consumption in pregnancy, maternal obesity, and choice regarding method and place of birth.

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