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Can maternity care move beyond risk? Implications for midwifery as a profession.

Healy, Sandra; Humphreys, Eileen; Kennedy, Catriona


Sandra Healy

Eileen Humphreys


Maternal and infant mortality rates are reassuringly low in developed countries. Despite this, birth is increasingly seen as risky by women, health professionals and society in general. In wider society, women are subjected to a litany of risks regarding birth, including sensationalising negative incidents by the media. Within maternity care, both structural and operational factors contribute to heightened risk perceptions. Women are processed through a system where risk-management strategies can take precedence over individualised care as health professionals attempt to protect themselves from implication in adverse outcomes and litigation. This results in increasingly interventionist care, depriving women of psychosocial safety in the birth process. Midwifery, as a profession promoting trust in normal birth, is threatened by this dominant medical model of maternity care and interventionist birth practices. Midwives need to act to reclaim their role in promoting normal birth, while balancing considerations of risk with the principle of woman-centred care.


HEALY, S., HUMPHREYS, E. and KENNEDY, C. 2016. Can maternity care move beyond risk? Implications for midwifery as a profession. British journal of midwifery [online], 24(3), pages 203-209. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 3, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 3, 2016
Publication Date Mar 31, 2016
Deposit Date Sep 16, 2016
Publicly Available Date Sep 16, 2016
Journal British Journal of Midwifery
Print ISSN 0969-4900
Electronic ISSN 2052-4307
Publisher Mark Allen Healthcare
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 3
Pages 203-209
Keywords Risk; Childbirth; Midwives; Women; Intervention
Public URL