Shifting Maternity Care in Canada: A Feminist Post-Structural Study of Experiences of Disrespect and Abuse in Facility-Based Childbirth
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From a feminist post-structural lens, this research explores the dominating discourses and power dynamics that shape experiences of disrespect and abuse during childbirth in Canadian facilities. First-person written accounts, in the form of anonymous submissions to an online blog, are analyzed using discourse analysis. Three prominent themes are provided: (1) feelings and emotions of disrespect and abuse; (2) provoking the birthing body; and (3) tensions in maternity care spaces. From these themes, several dominating discourses are identified, including medical discourse; legal discourses of punishment, criminal identity, sexual assault, and informed consent; and patriarchal and gendered discourses of objectification, infantilization, and sacrificial motherhood. The study further finds that interpersonal, institutional, and structural power dynamics, which shape and are shaped by dominating discourses, operate within maternity spaces in interrelated ways. Recommendations for health administrators to identify and facilitate the mitigation of disrespect and abuse during childbirth are offered.