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The  Humanization of Childbirth Movement in Latin America:  A Preliminary Study

The project is a preliminary study of the Latin American social movement to reform maternity care known as "the humanization of childbirth." Comprising a transnational network of NGOs and activists, this movement has strived over the last two decades to improve maternity outcomes by promoting the respectful treatment of women during childbirth and opposing the use or over-use of unnecessary obstetrical interventions, especially caesareans, which have reached epidemic levels in many Latin American countries. Over the course of ten weeks of fieldwork, I will begin to map the history, social composition, organizational structure, and ideology of this movement in Brazil and Argentina, two countries with the oldest and densest networks of activists and the most successful examples of maternity care reform.  Methods will include interviews with key activists, focused life histories and the collection of relevant documents, as well as participant observation at one Argentine and one Brazilian maternity center in which practices have been reformed according to the ideology of humanization.  By the end of 2011, my collaborator, Robbie Davis-Floyd, and I will submit grant proposals for a full­ scale study to the NSF and other foundations. This project will contribute to our understanding of contemporary social movements in Latin America, as well as efforts to establish new models of maternity care that simultaneously improve outcomes and the quality of the childbirth experience.