Sarah's birth. How the medicalisation of childbirth may be shaped in different settings: vignette from a study of routine intervention in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Scamell, M., Altaweli, R. & McCourt, C. (2016). Sarah's birth. How the medicalisation of childbirth may be shaped in different settings: vignette from a study of routine intervention in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Women and Birth, doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2016.08.002

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Abstract

Background
The expansion of the medicalisation of childbirth has been described in the literature as being a global phenomenon. The vignette described in this paper, selected from an ethnographic study of routine intervention in Saudi Arabian hospitals illustrates how the worldwide spread of the bio-medical model does not take place within a cultural vacuum.

Aim
To illuminate the ways in which the medicalisation of birth may be understood and practised in different cultural settings, through a vignette of a specific birth, drawn as a typical case from an ethnographic study that investigated clinical decision-making in the second stage of labour in Saudi Arabia.

Methods
Ethnographic data collection methods, including participant observation and interviews. The data presented in this paper are drawn from ethnographic field notes collected during field work in Saudi Arabia, and informed by analysis of a wider set of field notes and interviews with professionals working in this context.

Findings
While the medicalisation of care is a universal phenomenon, the ways in which the care of women is managed using routine medical intervention are framed by the local cultural context in which these practices take place.

Discussion
The ethnographic data presented in this paper shows the medicalisation of birth thesis to be incomplete. The evidence presented in this paper illustrates how local belief systems are not so much subsumed by the expansion of the bio-medical model of childbirth, rather they may actively facilitate a process of localised reinterpretation of such universalised and standardised practices. In this case, aspects of the social and cultural context of Jeddah operates to intensify the biomedical model at the expense of respectful maternity care.

Conclusion
In this article, field note data on the birth of one Saudi Arabian woman is used as an illustration of how the medicalisation of childbirth has been appropriated and reinterpreted in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
Uncontrolled Keywords: Childbirth; Evidence-based practice; Medicalisation; Saudi Arabia; Islam
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Divisions: School of Health Sciences > Department of Midwifery
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/15435

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