Kim Gutschow

Kim Gutschow lectures in the departments of Anthropology and Religion at Williams College. She has researched and published on maternal and newborn health in India and the United States, and on the dynamics of irrigation, land, and social power in the Himalayas. Her first book Being a Buddhist Nun (Harvard 2004) won the Sharon Stephens Prize from the AES, and she is currently lead-editing Sustainable Birth in Disruptive Times (Springer Press, forthcoming 2020) with Robbie Davis-Floyd and Betty-Anne Daviss, while finishing Human Rights Failures: Maternal Mortality in India and the US, and The Buddha’s Mother’s Death: Maternal Mortality Then and Now. ORCID ID: 0000-0001-8568-2052.

The Impacts of Covid-19 on Birth Practices in the United States

This rapid-response article (1) seeks to describe the quick and dramatic changes occurring in birth practices across the United States resulting from the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the life-threatening disease it produces, Covid-19. Long before the Covid-19 epidemic hit the United States, the medicalization of pregnancy had led to a broad acceptance of birthing as hospital-based—where it is often treated like a dysfunctional mechanical process and its normal physiology is ignored. We explore the question of how Covid-19 is causing women and birth providers to look at birth differently, given that hospitals are now more than ever being perceived as sites of contagion. We show that Covid-19 offers a testing ground for ongoing debates about the efficacy of maternity care and the safety of hospital versus out-of-hospital (OOH) births. We conclude by suggesting specific policy changes to generate effective maternity care in the face of future pandemics and other disasters that are bound to increase in our era of the climate crisis.

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