Review for The Practising Midwife of Pregnancy, Birth and Maternity Care: feminist perspectives. Edited by Mary Stewart.
I think this is a very important book.
There are many feminisms. They all place the perspectives and concerns of women at the centre of their understanding. This book outlines a number of feminist theoretical orientations. The chapters apply feminist principles of understanding to all aspects of midwifery: pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period, breast-feeding, postnatal depression and midwifery education. There are also chapters dealing with more general aspects of feminist thought including sexuality and ways of knowing. A study examining midwifery partnership with women in Aotearoa/New Zealand and a personal account by Nicky Leap of her journey from feminism to midwifery are also included.
By using feminist principles to examine midwifery theory and practice the authors describe a basis for the development of real woman centred care. The development of such an approach is necessary if midwifery is to develop further as a profession in its own right and not as an adjunct to obstetrics. And this development would seem to be desperately necessary to counteract the prevalence and institutionalisation of tokophobia in this and other industrialised societies. Feminism can provide a critique of the subservient relationship between obstetrics and midwifery. I think that this book provides the basic tools for midwifery to confront obstetrics as a discipline which is different -- and equal.
I think this book is suitable for midwives at all levels including, maybe especially, students. If its principles were fully internalised maternity care would be transformed for the better by placing the needs of women rather than the needs of the institutions of health care delivery at the centre of care.