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Birth places: A geographical perspective on planned home birth in New Zealand

  • Law
  • Medicine


In New Zealand until the 1920s, most births occurred at home or in small maternity hospitals under the care of a midwife. Births subsequently came under the control of the medical profession and the prevalent medical ideology continues to support hospitalised birth in the interests of safety for mother and child. Despite resistance from the medical profession, recent (1990) legislation has reinstated the autonomy of midwives and this has come at a time when the demand for home births is increasing. This paper locates these changes within the geographical context of home as a primary place within human experience. It is argued that the medical profession has been an agent of an essentially patriarchal society in engendering particular experiences of time and place for women in labour. Narrative data indicate that the choice of home as a birth place is related to three dimensions of experience unavailable in a hospital context: control, continuity and the familiarity of home.

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