The Places of Birth: Navigating Risk, Control, and Choice
Through qualitative research in the Twin Cities, Minnesota and a literature review grounded in health and feminist geography, this paper analyzes how women, their families, and health care providers view and navigate places of birth. Over four million births occur annually in the United States, making birth the most common reason for hospitalization of women. Although 99% of women in the U.S. give birth in hospitals, a small but vocal minority seek alternative places to birth – primarily at home. Where to give birth is a contested subject infused with social and political significance. I suggest that place is highly significant to the experiences of birthing women. Specifically, I propose that care providers and patients navigate the perceived risks of birth to make and justify spatial choices about birth. I further suggest that risk management is a strategic framework for negotiating control, choice, and safety when it comes to places to give birth. Additionally, I discuss the interplay between advocates of hospital and homebirth and the use of spatial rhetoric about birth.
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