Part I approached the study of birth from the macro level, discussing the role of the state and a collection of other groups involved in designing maternal health services. Part II focused the social scientific eye on the meso level, analyzing the complex nature of professional group formation and competition within maternal health systems. The third and final part of the book takes the reader to the micro level, shedding light on two central themes: (1) the views of maternity clients on their access to and utilization of maternal health services and (2) the varied ways technology shapes the work of midwives and the experiences of birthing women.
The authors of Part III address the following questions: In what ways are intranational differences in women’s experiences of maternity care policy marked by culture and history? How do women come to internalize, and act on, different notions of “risk” in childbirth? What role does technology play in “training” women’s bodies for birth? What do women really want in the provision of maternity care?
Taken collectively, the four chapters in this final part of the book argue that society and culture shape birthing women’s desires about what they want and the maternity care they receive. Evidence offered here also suggests significant variation in the use of obstetrical technologies in different societal settings.
The first chapter of Part III, Chapter 10, presents a fascinating study of how vestiges of the former East and West Germany influence attitudes about, and the use of, prenatal diagnostic technology. Erikson shows that policies in and of themselves do not dictate women’s experiences of maternity care. The nearly parallel development of maternity care policies in East and West Germany had very varying impacts on the women (and men) living in these two nation-states, due in large measure to the value placed on women’s work.
Chapter 11 focuses on the convergence of three topics that run throughout the maternity care literature: risk, technology, and medical malpractice litigation. Cartwright and Thomas examine the concept of “risk” within obstetrics, using the anthropological understanding of risk as an idea that is culturally constituted and reflective of particular social institutions in a particular historical and political