|dc.description.abstract||Culture is a salient factor in a woman’s experience of pregnancy and
childbirth. Expectations of a hospital birth, continuous electronic fetal
monitoring, epidurals, and ultrasounds (among other “normal”
maternity care practices) are deeply tied to the American master
narrative of childbirth.
Midwifery practices in different spaces—home, birth center, and
hospital—are interrupting the trajectory of medicalized childbirth.
Today, the profession of midwifery involves many different groups of
practitioners working toward a common goal of providing woman-
centered care. Midwives believe in the innate ability of women’s
bodies to give birth. They see birth as a safe, physiological process.
They safely monitor their patients without pathologizing the process.
I have focused on American documentaries about midwives and
childbirth, looking specifically at how the history and culture of birth
has been represented in different spaces from World War II to the
present. How do they construct knowledge and authority within
different birth spaces, and how does that affect the social statuses of
the midwives, of the mothers? How do race and class and privilege
operate in terms of access to care? And how are documentary films
shaping the collective imagination of birth and midwifery in the