Pregnancy and Birth

My present research focuses on pregnancy, birth, and being with infants, from a phenomenological perspective. This means that I am interested in these bodily experiences and especially the emotions involved, as well as relations to others. Others include partners and close relatives as well as healthcare professionals: midwives, obstetricians. With my research, I am trying to mediate between philosophers (phenomenologists), parents, and healthcare professionals such that the perspectives can be shared as well as differences acknowledged. Becoming a parent is a very strange experience, in ways to be examined, and acknowledging this in communication and preparation helps alleviate anxiety.

One of the main findings of my research on pregnancy and birth is not surprising at all: the quality of care matters a lot to the experience. Improved relations between those involved (especially parents, midwives, obstetricians) make for a better experience and better family relations later on. But what makes such relations good? What contributes to successful communication? These are not easy questions, and reflections on the connection between communication and emotions are called for. Childbirth is a situation that poses special communication challenges and requires considering communication in the wider sense, including body language, silence, and responsivity to the situation.

Such considerations are important because of a general finding about pregnancy and birth: it is a very strange experience! There are different dimensions to this strangeness, ranging from the unfamiliar to the inconceivable and even uncanny. No wonder the emotional landscape around birth is so multi-faceted. It is worth exploring these dimensions, for a number of reasons of which only two shall be mentioned here. Firstly, addressing anticipatory anxiety during pregnancy leads to a better (and less anxious) experience later. Secondly, the strangeness of the experience is not over with childbirth: the newly born creature is quite strange as well, posing similar challenges. Addressing these together is important yet extremely difficult, also given that we are not used to talking about matters of our bodies or emotions.

If you would like to see an academic-style presentation on the subject-matter: