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Flexibletherapeutic landscapes of labour and the place of pain relief

Health & Place
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2007.02.003
  • Therapeutic Landscapes
  • Culture Of Place
  • Maternity Care
  • Pain Relief
  • Design
  • Medicine


Abstract Flexibility in the design and enactment of spaces of healthcare is important in how providers respond to variations in patient expectations and experience. Health geographers have contributed to a wide body of literature concerning the therapeutic qualities of landscapes and the material, social and symbolic orderings of place and their uniqueness for individuals. In this paper, we draw upon these findings and a ‘culture of place’ approach to consider the complexities of maternity care and issues of pain relief. Given that pain is widely held to be a subjective experience and one that, in an era of patient decision making, increasingly demands discretionary approaches to its relief, we consider how medical professionals help to construct flexibility in healthcare and how this affects therapeutic landscapes. Drawing on analysis of four focus groups involving parent educators, midwives, health visitors, anaesthetists and obstetricians in the NE of England, we explore the material and discursive construction of flexible therapeutic landscapes and pain relief. Our findings suggest that flexibility is constrained and fashioned in association with health care professional's sense of place as already constituted. We propose that providing maternity care professionals with an explicit awareness of how places are relationally constructed, may help in expanding the therapeutic qualities of particular settings, and support a (more) flexible approach.

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