The technocratic, humanistic, and holistic paradigms of childbirth

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2001 Nov;75 Suppl 1:S5-S23.


This article describes three paradigms of health care that heavily influence contemporary childbirth, most particularly in the west, but increasingly around the world: the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of medicine. These models differ fundamentally in their definitions of the body and its relationship to the mind, and thus in the health care approaches they charter. The technocratic model stresses mind-body separation and sees the body as a machine; the humanistic model emphasizes mind-body connection and defines the body as an organism; the holistic model insists on the oneness of body, mind, and spirit and defines the body as an energy field in constant interaction with other energy fields. Based on many years of research into contemporary childbirth, most especially through interviews with physicians, midwives, nurses, and mothers, this article seeks to describe the 12 tenets of each paradigm as they apply to contemporary obstetrical and health care, and to point out their futuristic implications. I suggest that practitioners who combine elements of all three paradigms have a unique opportunity to create the most effective obstetrical system ever known.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health* / ethnology
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric* / psychology
  • Medical Laboratory Science
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pregnancy
  • Professional Competence
  • United States / ethnology