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Childbirth is socially constructed as one of the most emotionally meaningful events in the life course. Birth has the potential to be a positive and empowering experience for women, yet mothers are often subordinated and objectified by medical practices. While research has explored the links between maternity care practices, demographic characteristics, and objective maternal health outcomes, less is known about how these factors impact women's emotional experiences of birth. This dissertation expands existing reproduction research by applying a sociological perspective of emotion to the study of childbirth. Birth is explored through the lens of power-status theory, examining how women's power during birth is associated with their emotional experience. This study examines how natural birth practices and views are associated with positive and negative emotions experienced during birth. It uses national survey data from the Listening to Mothers I and II surveys, collected in 2002 and 2006 from women who had given birth in the previous 12 months. Data were aggregated, totaling 2,965 study participants. Negative binomial and logistic regression models indicate that some natural birth practices, such as avoidance of medical induction, movement during labor, and support provided by a loved one or doula, were associated with increased odds of positive emotional experiences. Negative emotions, however, were not significantly associated with natural birth practices. In addition, women's birth views were not significantly associated with either positive or negative emotions. Study findings provide limited support for claims linking emotional outcomes with natural birth practices and views. Less than half of the natural birth practices examined were significantly associated with positive emotions and less than one fourth were associated with negative emotions. Overall, limited support was found for power-status theory.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Sociology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Anne Barrett, Professor Directing Dissertation; Robin Goodman, University Representative; Irene Padavic, Committee Member; Jill Quadagno, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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