Read the author interview with Professor Elizabeth Soliday on her recently published book, Childbirth in a Technocratic Age

Cambria Press is pleased to announce that Childbirth in a Technocratic Age: The Documentation of Women’s Expectations and Experiences by Elizabeth Soliday is now available.

Below is a transcript of the Q&A session with Professor Soliday.


1. Why did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write Childbirth in a Technocratic Age: The Documentation of Women’s Expectations and Experiences after observing what I perceive as contradictions within the contemporary maternal care culture that stand to confuse women on their role in the childbirth process.  In the context of the U.S.’s private health care system, the reality of having to meet the economic bottom line has resulted in an increasingly consumer-oriented maternal care culture, where medical interventions, necessary are not, are packaged to appeal to birthing women’s natural desires for safety and comfort.  Along with increased consumer choices comes an unspoken professional expectation that women will take an active role in medical decision making and in ensuring their own satisfaction with childbirth.

In reality, however — at least for the over 99% of U.S. women who give birth in hospitals — maternal agency and decision making in childbirth are constrained by long-standing professional biases and by institutional practices and policies.  In such a context, I wanted to understand the kinds of expectations contemporary women might have for their upcoming childbirth experiences and how those expectations bore out in the actual labor and delivery process.

2.  What do you hope your readers take away from your book?

First, in my presentation of research on obstetric issues, I hope readers come to a greater understanding of the contemporary context of maternal care in the U.S. — and by context I mean its benefits, its drawbacks, the pressures under which this system operates, and the pressures that the system in turn places on women.  Within that context, I hope that the maternal interview material gives readers an appreciation for the complex childbirth-related emotions that mothers struggle with long term, and I also hope that readers feel challenged to question the source of lingering negative feelings some mothers reported about birth giving.  Finally, I hope that readers, whether they are mothers or not, are reminded of the heroic act of childbirth itself, and with that in mind, consider for themselves and others how mothers could be more effectively supported.

3.  What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

In the context of a rapidly evolving maternal care system and statistics indicating that the health of U.S. mothers is falling behind other global nations with less technologically-intensive approaches to maternal care, the field is wide open.  In terms of my own work, I have studies currently underway examining pregnant women’s personal orientation towards obstetric care that is, borrowing from anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd, technocratic or humanistic, and how their orientation predicts their later uptake of specific birth interventions, their satisfaction with childbirth, and their postpartum mood.  I am also working with non-Western health care practitioners on studies of non-medical supports in pregnancy and how those connect to the subsequent birth experience.  In my own work and in the field more generally, the power differential between maternal medical patients and obstetric professionals must continually be acknowledged, particularly as pressures on women to actively participate in medical decision making and in the childbirth process grow.  Moreover, factors that place women at disadvantage, including cultural differences, low income, and limited education, must be an integral part of any ongoing maternal health research.


The book is targeted towards an academic readership, including scholars and medical professionals with interest in women’s health, women’s and maternal mental health, women’s reproductive health, reproductive technology, medical humanities, medical anthropology, narrative studies, pregnancy, and childbirth.

Recommend this book to your librarian today! They can order it directly from Cambria Press or they can order through their preferred academic book wholesaler (Cambria Press is on the approval list of premier wholesalers like YBP).

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