Sept. 24, 1998 * Vol . 13, No. 2


Research on birthing not just academic

Jude Kornelsen's research in midwifery for PhD thesis in the school of communication isn't just academic.

When she started, her first daughter, Sonja, was five months old. Another, Olivia, was born during her unique work.

"My colleagues often joked that I was taking my research too far," she recalls."Obviously I was very involved in the contemporary culture of western childbirth and wanted to investigate how obstetrical technology transforms the experience as a way of addressing our relationship to technology."

Through surveys and interviews she compared women who have given birth at home with those who chose hospitals.

"My research revealed that women who opted for home birthing and midwifery were very involved in conscious decision-making," she reports. "They discussed and debated the issues and had developed amazing levels of sophistication and insights."

These women made decisions about what kind and how much technological involvement they wanted in the birth of their child much the same way they would make up their mind to not use their car as much, or get rid of the TV, she explains.

"In contrast, most women who chose hospital may have been concerned about technology, but assumed that it was a fait accompli," she adds.

Kornelsen used three different perspectives: the immediate relationship of birthing women to devices (like forceps and epidurals), to hospitals and to the medical profession, and their place in our ever-increasing technological environment.

Her multidisciplinary work is reflected in her thesis committee: Patricia Howard, a communication professor, Ian Angus, a sociologist, and Brian Burtch, a criminologist and expert in midwifery.

"Grad students often hear horror stories about committees concerned only with their own research agendas," she says.

"But I had the honor of working with three attentive, dedicated people who always made time and provided an exemplary model of scholarship from very diverse disciplines.

"I can't say enough about their roles in making my experience at SFU so incredible," concludes Kornelsen, who is currently working on research projects through the B.C. Centre of Excellence in Women's Health to assess the effect of the regulation of midwives and their integration into the province's health care system.

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