University of Technology Sydney

92382 Power, Politics and Midwifery

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject focuses on the intersection of gender (the cultural construction of femininity and masculinity), power and the sociopolitical contexts of childbearing. Students examine midwifery from a feminist perspective and identify historical and current gender-based issues that impact on the profession and therefore on childbearing women. The subject examines historical medicalisation practices and current technological influences in relation to the position women hold in westernised societies.

The subject exposes students to sociopolitical discourses that inform the experience of childbirth for women, families and for midwives. The portrayal of childbearing and midwifery in popular culture provides a platform for students to critically analyse the portrayal of women, birth and mothering in today's society. The subject also provides an overview of the human rights' perspective on childbearing and the care that women have a right to deserve. This also includes the role of consumers in the maternity care sector and how midwives work in partnership with women to advocate for improvements and reform in maternity services.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Apply a feminist perspective to critically analyse the profession of midwifery in regard to identifying and addressing gender-based inequalities (12.1, 12.2)
B. Identify and appraise power structures in the current health and political systems and discuss the influence these have on women, childbearing and in midwifery (12.2)
C. Apply a human rights-based approach to explore the role of the midwife within the broad political agenda of Australia and internationally including the midwives role in sexual and reproductive health services (1.1, 1.4, 7.2, 11.1)
D. Examine and defend the role of the woman in the politics of maternity care and provide commentary on how advocacy can bring about reforms and health policy change. (12.2)
E. Appraise the use of popular culture to better understand the construction of the power and politics of childbirth (12.2)

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Practise woman-centred care (1.0)
  • Are professionally competent midwives who provide safe and effective midwifery care using intelligent kindness (2.0)
  • Communicate effectively using spoken, written and non-verbal language across a range of contexts and to diverse audiences (2.3)
  • Utilise information technologies with a high level of literacy (2.4)
  • Influence change and contribute to the development of midwifery as a strong profession through leadership, mentoring and positive role modelling (3.1)
  • Are professionally engaged critical thinkers who take a lively and questioning approach and embrace lifelong learning (6.0)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Woman centred care
In this subject, students will be exposed to the underlying social and political structures that underpin the practice of midwifery. They will be encouraged to advocate for women’s human rights in childbirth. Complex legal and ethical issues, and the way they impact on care provided to women, will be examined. Students will explore popular media and how this influences the experience and expectations of women as they seek and experience care.

Professional Competence
Critical thinking and communication skills will be highlighted, especially in relation to legal and ethical challenges including working with women who choose care outside of recommended guidelines. Students will also be exposed to emerging areas that will impact their professional life in the future, including genomics. The use of personal power, and it's impacts on women and colleagues in the practice of midwifery will be explored.

Creativity is an essential component of improving midwifery practice and the care of women and newborns. This subject will require students to address political issues in creative ways, creatively address gender and power challenges in the health system and consider innovative ways to bring about change.

This subject will expose students to experiences from the perspective of consumers (including stillbirth) and highlight the importance of advocacy to promote equitable provision of quality care, particularly for vulnerable or disadvantaged women and families. The subject will explore the importance of respectful care and human rights issues in childbirth. Interactions between womens health, diversity, gender, culture and the notion of intersectionality will be explored.

Teaching and learning strategies

In this subject, students participate in a range of teaching and learning strategies that are designed to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and explore the practice of midwifery within the framework of power, politics and a human rights agenda.

Stories from practice depict people and their families in clinical, community and social situations. Students use these scenarios to learn concepts, interpret information and develop solutions. Students develop critical thinking through analysis, interpretation of and reflection on issues or situations. Students engage specifically with websites and blogs that address the practice of midwifery in the context of human and reproductive rights, feminism, global women's health and ethics.

Stories will be discussed in online forums and feedback from the teacher/guest speakers will be provided and interactions and views from peers will be encouraged.

Students will have access to a variety of online learning resources including podcasts, videos, professional and grey literature, blogs and online discussions. These resources enable students to engage with complex concepts and terminology, and explore sensitive or confronting topics at their own pace. Activities and independent engagement with resources are then discussed in an online forum via UTS zoom to share learning, experiences and reflections.

Students have the opportunity to listen to and dialogue with a range of guests, both professional and consumer advocates, who discuss personal and/or professional stories in relation to the subject content and objectives.

Content (topics)

Feminism and midwifery
• The role of equity and equality in maternity care
• Power structures in the current health and political systems and the influence these have on women, childbearing and in midwifery
• Understanding of how midwives fit into the political world of maternity care, and the role that they have to play in advocating for women and bringing about change

Reproductive choices
• Ethical and professional responsibilities when working with women, partners and families
• Pregnancy choices – legal and ethical issues
• The rights of the woman over the rights of the fetus
• Women who refuse care or choose care outside usual guidelines

The power and politics of reproductive rights and maternity care
• The role of the midwife in the broad political agenda in Australia and internationally
• Human rights issues and perspectives in childbirth
• History and use of advocacy to bring about reform in maternity services –listening to the voice of women
• Power and gender politics in popular culture

Motherhood and fatherhood in modern society
• Contested meanings of birth
• Society’s beliefs and values on birth and mothering


Assessment task 1: Letter to the Minister or Member of Parliament


This assessment provides an opportunity for students to engage with the politics of the health system and maternity care issues that may be visible in the wider community. Writing to a MP or Minister of Health is an authentic activity as we expect midwives to be able to lobby and advocate for quality care for women. This is an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of issues surrounding woman centred care as well as considering the way midwifery is located within the political landscape.

This is a formative assessment. Early feedback will be provided.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

B and D

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0 and 3.1

Type: Report
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 20%

No more than 400 words and the letter should fit on one page (with letterhead and proper beginning and ending as would be conventional in a letter).

Assessment task 2: Background paper supporting the letter to the Minister or Member of Parliament


This assessment provides students with an opportunity to expand on the issue they identified in Assessment Task 1. Exploring the issue further facilitates knowledge and understanding regarding structures within the current health and political systems and the influence these have on women, childbearing and midwifery practice.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

B, C, D and E

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0 and 6.0

Type: Essay
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 50%

Maximum 1000 words plus 8-10 references

Assessment task 3: Exploration of ethical concepts in relation to midwifery care


This assessment enables students to provide a link between ethical concepts and midwifery practice.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B, D and E

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

1.0, 2.0, 2.3, 2.4 and 3.1

Type: Project
Groupwork: Group, group assessed
Weight: 30%

10 slides with a 200 word synopsis in first slide, then 100-150 words per slide (provided in the notes section).

Minimum requirements

Full attendance and participation in face-to-face teaching and learning sessions as well as the online activities is a requirement to pass this subject. Students must inform the subject coordinator by email if they are unable to attend a study day.

If a student is absent, he or she may be required to submit additional material to the lecturer. This material may be a summary of the lectures and readings of the day. Where required, this material is checked by the lecturer as 'satisfactory' or 'not satisfactory' but is not marked and no additional feedback is provided. This work is not counted towards the subject assessment.

Poor attendance may result in failure of the subject.

Recommended texts

Catling, C., Cummins, A. and Hogan, R. (2016), Stories in Midwifery; Reflection, Inquiry, Action, Elsevier Australia

Edwards, N., Mander, R. & Murphy-Lawless, J. (2018). Untangling the maternity crisis. Routledge, London.

Dahlen, H, Kumar-Hazard, B. & Schmied, V. (2020). Birthing outside the system: the canary in the coal mine. Routledge, Oxon.


Bryom, S. & Downe, S. (2015). The roar behind the silence: why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care. Pinter and Martin, London.

Kirkham, M. (2010). The midwife-mother relationship, 2nd edn, Pelgrave Macmillan, London.

MacColl, M.R. (2009). The birth wars. University of Queensland Pres, Brisbane.

Pairman, S., Tracy, S.K., Dahlen, H. & Dixon, L. (2019a). Midwifery: preparation for practice; book 1 4th eds edn, Elsevier Australia.

Pairman, S., Tracy, S.K., Dahlen, H. & Dixon, L. (2019b). Midwifery: preparation for practice; book 2 4th edn, Elsevier, Australia.

Other resources

Building 10
Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:
For other resources/information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and Canvas at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.

The Accessibility and Financial Assistance Service
The Accessibility Service can support students with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions, including temporary injuries (e.g., broken limbs). The Accessibility Service works with Academic Liaison Officers in each Faculty to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as exam provisions, assistive technology, requests and strategies for managing your studies alongside your health condition. If you’re unsure whether you need assistance, we recommend getting in touch early and we can provide advice on how our service can assist you. Make an appointment with an Accessibility Consultant (AC) on +61 2 9514 1177 or

The Financial Assistance Service can assist you with financial aspects of life at university, including Centrelink information, tax returns and budgeting, interest-free student loans and grants to assist with course-related costs. Check eligibility and apply online and make an appointment on +61 2 9514 1177 or