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'Gone with the Wind'--interpreting media representations of normal childbirth.


Dr Holly Powell-Kennedy, co-chair of the ICM Research Sanding Committee, gave a fascinating talk to an audience at King's College London, on 3 March 2008. Holly used images from the 1939 film Gone with the Wind to illustrate how childbirth has been a topic surrounded by ignorance and fear over many years. She compared the messages from the film with material published over past decades intended to enlighten women's lack of knowledge.

Holly summarises this work: 'Women ultimately hold the greatest power to change how maternity care is provided and are active agents in the making of their history in childbirth. Women turn to various resources to inform themselves about birth, including family, friends, public and private discourse, media and health tare providers. Understanding women's decision-making about childbirth choices is complex--how do they interpret the multiple messages in the media?

'A recent cross-sectional national survey of over 1500 mothers in the United States (US) indicated that 41-47% had induced or augmented labour, 32% gave birth via caesarean, 25% experienced an episiotomy and most were cared for by obstetricians. Many reported feeling overwhelmed, frightened and weak during their childbirth experience. Only 8-10% of women in the US are attended in birth by midwives. Although the reasons for these statistics are complex, partial explanations may lie in that women's desires and beliefs may run counter to what many midwives believe is important about ehildbirth and the prevailing US culture of medicalised birth.

'This critical discourse analysis examined visual messages of 55 covers on common childbirth education books. An in-depth textual analysis was conducted on messages about women's agency, interactions, power, authority and childbirth on the top 10 selling books in the US. Five themes were identified that included body images, normality/risk, purpose of pain, childbearing authority and life preparation as a mother. Implications for using the findings in working with women on childbearing decisions and future research were discussed'.

Holly Powell Kennedy, PhD, CNM, FACNM, FAAN

King's College London

Fulbright Distinguished Scholar

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Author:Kennedy, Holly Powell
Publication:International Midwifery
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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