Caring for pregnant and postpartum families is a complex and multifaceted experience for birth workers, including midwives, obstetricians, doulas, and social workers, in the United States. Over the past 100 years, there has been a shift from giving birth primarily at home with the guidance of midwives to giving birth in hospitals under the supervision of obstetricians. This shift is situated in the political alliances between doctors and politicians, changes in technology, and larger social structures that dictate hierarchies across race, gender, class, sexuality, and ability. This project takes an ethnographic and historical approach to exploring how these hierarchies have influenced the formalization of support for birthing families over the past century. Through a series of nine interviews with birth workers in a diverse midwestern city, this project explores how contemporary birth workers—especially those who assist (and/or are themselves part of) historically marginalized or underserved groups—care for themselves. Ultimately, this study focuses on the ways birth workers navigate the intersections of their personal and professional commitments to Birth Justice during a pivotal moment in antiracist organizing and the stratified impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.


Craven, Christa


Sociology and Anthropology; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Anthropology | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Medicine and Health | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Justice | Women's History


Reproductive Justice, Birth Justice, Politics of Care, Care Work, Intersectionality, COVID-19, Motherhood, Ethnography

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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