Gender Studies, Sociology of Childbirth, Russian Midwifery, Natural Childbirth
The development of a “natural” approach to birth and the formation of independent midwifery practices are some of the most significant changes to contemporary Russian antenatal health care. In this article I consider the discourses employed by Russian midwives to mark their own (distinctive from medical) jurisdiction and to legitimize their status as members of an independent profession. I pay special attention to the implications that the professionalization of independent midwifery practice may have for Russian gender relations. Feminist authors commonly acknowledge independent midwifery as a social phenomenon that subverts a patriarchal view of gender hierarchy and contributes to the empowerment of women. I examine the case of the Russian midwifery movement in order to find out if it really has this potential and what limitations might exist for independent midwifery to take on this role. In Russian, extended summary in English.