Violence and Trauma in Australian Birth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Can ‘obstetric violence’ be a generative lens through which to understand Australian women’s experiences of labour and birth? Setting contemporary debates about obstetric violence in a longer chronological trajectory offers the opportunity to see continuity and change in how medical professionals over time enacted physical and psychological violence on the women in their care. It also has the potential to demonstrate women’s resistance to, but also acquiescence to and collaboration in this violence.

Taking Australian maternity care practice as a case study, this chapter explores obstetric violence from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Theorising obstetric violence in a way that moves beyond the legal definition to a conceptualisation of historical utility, we draw on Gayatri Spivak’s understanding of epistemic violence in an effort to understand how medical authority, often inadvertently, wields psychological violence against women. We analyse women’s birth narratives in the popular press, as well as in a recent online survey.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAustralian Motherhood
Subtitle of host publicationHistorical and Sociological Perspectives
EditorsCarla Pascoe, Petra Bueskens
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9783030202675
ISBN (Print)9783030202668
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Maternal care
  • Obstetric violence
  • trauma

Cite this