Feminism and midwifery; should midwives be feminists?
Place of Publication
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Introduction: The links between feminism and midwifery are not new. The two have been intricately woven together throughout history. Midwives have assisted women in childbirth since the beginning of recorded history. It is recognised as one of the oldest professions. Midwives are mentioned in The Bible, featured on Egyptian papyrus and in ancient Hindu text. Until the 17th century childbirth was the responsibility of midwives but the gradual emergence of man-midwives, then barber-surgeons and obstetricians led to the prevalence of a more medical model. The obstetric model also reinforces the validity of the patriarchal philosophy. This model does not place any emphasis on the positive relationship between the woman and her caregiver, and does not place the woman at the centre of the care experience. Aim: The overall aim of this qualitative study was to generate new knowledge to describe and explain the views and knowledge of midwifery students on feminism and midwifery. To achieve this aim questions were asked relating to feminism, the role of the midwife and the impact of feminism on midwifery practice. Methods: This study used a qualitative descriptive approach, midwifery students were invited to complete an online questionnaire. Latent content analysis was used to analyse the collected data. This research was conducted within the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for the ethical conduct of research with humans. Ethics approval was obtained from Edith Cowan University's ethics committee. Results: The results generated new knowledge on student's beliefs and perceptions regarding feminism and midwifery. Conclusion and implications: There is very little research available on feminism in midwifery and how it's incorporated into a midwives practice or philosophy, or how it impacts midwifery care. This research is a step in addressing this gap and looks at how feminism impacts midwives practice.