CALL FOR PAPERS: American Anthropological Association Meetings,
November 17-21, 2004, San Francisco
Doulas as Humanistic Care Providers in Childbirth: Innovation, Usurpation or Cooptation?
There has been increasing movement in America towards alternative and complementary care, as exemplified by the establishment in 1998 of the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health (NCCAH), which was developed in response to public concern. The biomedical community is gradually, although not always easily, coming to terms with this trend, and is learning ways to incorporate alternative and complementary medicine into their practices. These trends are affecting obstetrics, as a sizable minority of American women are dissatisfied with the traditional hospital birth environment and are seeking alternatives to the traditional birth experience. As Robbie Davis-Floyd has shown, women seek humanistic birth experiences, regardless of the degree of medicalization involved. Such desires appear to be linked to the rise in women’s decisions to have a labor assistant, or doula, with them during childbirth. Doulas are women trained in childbirth who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the laboring woman before, during and just after childbirth. According to a nationally representative survey of childbearing women, doulas were present at 5% of the births between 2000 and 2002 and were rated highest in terms of quality of supportive care than any other caregiver. Since their emergence in U.S. in the early 1980s, doula training and certification organizations have grown dramatically; more than tripling in the past ten years, with a current estimate of approximately 35,000 doulas having gone through training throughout the United States. (Cochrane Review, 2003).
The goal of this session is to highlight and provide a venue for emerging anthropological research on the doula role, and its intersection with Western biomedical birth arrangements. This panel will explore the contours of the doula role within the intersection of the medical and midwifery models of birth, as doulas attempt to mediate these models and create humanistic birth experiences for the clients they serve.
Suggested paper topics include:
Research documenting the scope and range of doula practice and organizational forms in the U.S.
Exportation of the U.S. doula model to other cultural settings and in other medical contexts (i.e., dying; chronic illness)
The evolutionary role of labor support
Doula role’s effect on other maternity care professions, such as childbirth educators, maternity nurses, etc.
The meaning of the doula role for the women who work as doulas
Integration into hospital settings as independents or as employees
Increasing pressure on doulas to “unify” under one umbrella- pros and cons of being separate versus unified in interactions with clients and the medical community
Anthropologists’ personal experiences with doula trainings
The impact of doula care on pregnancy outcomes and mother/child relationships
Please send abstracts to us as soon as possible, but no later than March 25th. Feel free to contact us with questions about this panel or possible paper topics!
Christine Morton (Seattle U.) & Nicole Gallicchio (U. of Chicago)
2115 NW 199th
Shoreline, WA 98177
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