Birth room images: What they tell us about childbirth. A discourse analysis of birth rooms in developed countries

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Midwifery, 2016, 35 pp. 71 - 77
Issue Date:
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© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Objective: this study examined images of birth rooms in developed countries to analyse the messages and visual discourse being communicated through images. Design: a small qualitative study using Kress and van Leeuwen's (2006) social semiotic theoretical framework for image analysis, a form of discourse analysis. Setting/participants: forty images of birth rooms were collected in 2013 from Google Images, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons and midwifery colleagues. The images were from obstetric units, alongside and freestanding midwifery units located in developed countries (Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America). Main findings: findings demonstrated three kinds of birth room images; the technological, the 'homelike', and the hybrid domesticated birth room. The most dominant was the technological birth room, with a focus on the labour bed and medical equipment. The visual messages from images of the technological birth room reinforce the notion that the bed is the most appropriate place to give birth and the use of medical equipment is intrinsically involved in the birth process. Childbirth is thus construed as risky/dangerous. Key conclusions and implications for practice: as images on the Internet inform and persuade society about stereotypical behaviours, the trends of our time and sociocultural norms, it is important to recognise images of the technological birth room on the Internet may be influential in dictating women's attitudes, choices and behaviour, before they enter the birth room.
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