Preprint of: Fahy, KM & Parratt, JA 2006, 'Birth territory: a theory for midwifery practice', Women and Birth, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 45-50.
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The theory of Birth Territory describes, explains and predicts the relationships between the environment of the individual birth room, issues of power and control, and the way the woman experiences labour physiologically and emotionally.
The theory was synthesised inductively from empirical data generated by the authors in their roles as midwives and researchers. It takes a critical post-structural feminist perspective and expands on some of the ideas of Michel Foucault. Theory synthesis was also informed by current research about the embodied self and the authors’ scholarship in the fields of midwifery, human biology, sociology and psychology.
In order to demonstrate the significance of the theory, it is applied to two clinical stories that both occur in hospital but are otherwise different. This analysis supports the central proposition that when midwives use ‘midwifery guardianship’ to create and maintain the ideal Birth Territory then the woman is most likely to give birth naturally, be satisfied with the experience and adapt with ease in the post-birth period. These benefits together with the reduction in medical interventions also benefit the baby. In addition, a positive Birth Territory is posited to have a broader impact on the woman's partner, family and society in general.