Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


Human Biology

Second Department


Reader 1

Leda Martins

Reader 2

Fred Lynch

Reader 3

Dan Segal

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Rights Information

© 2014 Jenae Franklin


Investigating childbirth, one of the biggest moments of a woman’s life, this thesis examines the reasons behind women’s preferred birthing methods. This research explores the fundamental decisions women make during the birthing process: the amount of prenatal care mothers will receive, the type of health care provider they will use, picking the place of delivery, views on technological and medical interventions, and outlooks on natural childbirth. In addition to an extensive literature review, in-depth interviews with mothers, midwives, and obstetricians are used to examine the various controversies of childbirth. This thesis begins with a review of the transition from midwives to physicians as customary birth attendants in the United States and offers a comparison to obstetric care in Europe. Then comparing the training of obstetricians and midwives and their birthing philosophies to examine the medical and holistic models of childbirth. Finally, first-hand experiences of mothers conclude the research conducted and offer insight on the controversies of childbirth in an age of medical and technological interventions.

This research concludes that the transitions in American history have led to the cultural norm of medicalized, hospital births attended by physicians. These societal customs have led to great ambivalence towards alternative methods of childbirth such as not using the medical and technological resources available or using a midwife. With this, there has been a paradox created between the institutional pressures of childbirth and an individual’s choice when deciding what will be involved in a woman’s childbirth experience.