The social nature of natural childbirth

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Mar;66(5):1084-94. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.11.025. Epub 2007 Dec 26.


This paper aims to develop a better understanding of what proponents of natural childbirth mean by "natural." Using a biosocial approach to birth that posits that all birth is both social and natural, the paper investigates how proponents represent the relationship between nature and society. The study asks about what kinds of nature-society relationships are expressed in proponents' representations of natural childbirth. The study examines how natural childbirth is represented by proponents in popular non-fictional English language books written for pregnant women. Claims in these books are not taken as reality, but are analyzed as ideas about nature-society relations. The central finding is that these authors simultaneously emphasize the naturalness of birth and showcase three types of social practices that they describe as being integral to natural childbirth: (1) activity during birth, (2) preparation before birth, and (3) social support, both in an individual and in a broader socio-cultural sense. At least for these authors, it is these social practices that allow natural childbirth to be natural. These findings on the social nature of natural childbirth challenge current social science scholarship, in which natural childbirth is characterized as an essentializing and nostalgic attempt to return to nature.

MeSH terms

  • Books*
  • Caregivers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Natural Childbirth / methods*
  • Nature
  • Pregnancy
  • Publishing*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Environment
  • Social Support*