SOC 213 – Doulas and Midwives and Women’s Health, Oh My!


The Social Breakdown Team is at it again with another really important topic–Women’s Health! On this week’s show Omar and Ellen will be having a discussion with Alexandra, a current University of Hawai’i at Manoa PhD Student, medical sociologist, and a practicing doula! What is a doula? What is midwifery? Join us for the conversation as Alex gives us a brief but important tour of women’s health, mythbusting the differences between being a doula and a midwife, and much more.


Women’s health, feminism, intersectionality, gender, childbirth, medical sociology


  1. Other episodes we’ve released that relate to the sociology of women’s health:
    1. SOC204 – The Spectrum: An Introduction to Sex and Gender
    2. SOC205 – The Matrices of Oppression: An Introduction to Intersectionality
    3. SOC126 – Medicalizing Behavior: Common or “Abnormal”?
  2. Doula: A person who supports a birthing mom, like a childbirth coach. They are not medically trained or experienced in prenatal, birth, and postpartum health care, like midwives are.
  3. Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know (2013) by Rickie Solinger.
  4. Brief look at midwifery.
  5. Before judging ‘late-term abortion,’ understand what it means, doctors say (CNN)
  6. FACT CHECK: Dr. J Marion Sims, not Richard Sims, was considered the “Father of Gynecology”, until more of his corrupt racist history and medical experimentation on slaves began to resurface.
  7. For more on colonialism and medical experimentation, see Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid (2008).
  8. Recent Hawaii State House and Senate bill governing midwifery on the Hawaiian islands. It is an example of the institutionalization of the birthing process. It was passed in the House and Senate with amendments on Feb 15, 2019.
  9. For theories surrounding how the female body is the site of political project and struggle, be sure to tap into Judith Butler, Simone De Beauvoir, Michel Foucault.
  10. For scholars on childbirth, Robbie David-Floyd, Ann Oakley.
  11. English and Ehrenreich’s Witches Midwives and Nurses: A History of Women Healers,
  12. Oparah and Bonaparte’s Birthing Justice, which looks at indigenous and women of color’s experience of childbirth, capitalism in childbirth, racism and obstetric violence from mother’s, doulas, and midwives point of views.
  13. Guttmacher Institute.

2 thoughts on “SOC 213 – Doulas and Midwives and Women’s Health, Oh My!”

  1. Hey guys! Another great episode. Y’all are killing it. I’m currently reading “Horrors of a Half-Known Life” by G.J. Barker-Benfield (about male attitudes toward women in 19th century + midwifery history), and I chose women’s health as a subject in my current sociology class. The books y’all recommended will be super helpful for my paper!

    My anthropology professor always liked to say that the first occupation wasn’t prostitution, but midwifery.

    When it comes to “alternative” ways of childbirth/medicine, I really liked the points made about hegemonic institutions. I wonder if people have flocked to all sorts of…New Age? not sure what the word is, non-Western-institutional options related to health because so many groups have been disenfranchised by the “normal” hospital/health system. Also, as institutions get bigger, the individuals inside get more depersonalized via the bureaucracy… so I can see why someone might want a Doula instead of a busy nurse with several patients…

    I normally have a question for you guys but this was just a great intro into the topic! Cheers from Utah Valley University

    1. Hi Gregory!
      Thanks so much for your comment! We glad you enjoyed the episode and found the book recommendations helpful. The current movement to deinstitutionalize the medical care industry is a big topic!

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