The Transformation of Intimacy: The Case of Birth Partners

Bartáková Petra

Abstract

This article focuses on the transformation of intimacy, in particular
on the experiences of Czech mothers who gave birth with the support of
professional and non-professional birth partners. In our area, all births in
the last century have shifted from the domestic environment, full of various
ritual practices, to the institutional environment of maternity hospitals. In
this sense, the labouring woman is separated from related persons. During the
1970s, obstetric care changed under the influence of the rising commercialisation
and individualisation of obstetric care. Maternity hospitals started to
open to the public and to also organise visits in delivery rooms, as well as in
post-natal rooms, and to tolerate the presence of accompanying persons at
the delivery. In the Czech environment, similar changes in obstetrics appeared
after 1989. Relationships between clients (parents) and professional accompanying
persons (doulas, independent midwives) can involve contemporary
practices of intimacy such as self-disclosure, physical contact, and practical
care. This “new” phenomenon of birth partners blurs the boundaries between
an intimate relationship and a commercial transaction. My work primarily
builds upon social studies focused on the transformation of intimacy in modernity
and human reproduction, in particular, the theoretical foundations of
the anthropology and the sociology of childbirth. The goal is to elucidate the
processes of the transformation of intimacy, which are characteristic of temporary
intimacy, through analysing eighteen semi-structured and narrative
interviews given by birth partners and mothers who had a birth companion.

Keywords

childbirth; birth partners; intimacy; transformation of intimacy; temporary intimacy; maternity hospitals

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Vydání: 18, 2016, 1