University of Technology Sydney

92676 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
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.

This 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 portayal 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 receive, and includes 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. Examine midwifery from a feminist perspective and identify aspects of the profession that have been and remain affected by gender and other inequalities (12.1, 12.2)
B. Recognise power structures in the current health and political systems and the influence these have on women, childbearing and in midwifery (12.2)
C. Critique the role of the midwife within the broad political agenda of Australia and internationally including the human rights perspective (1.1, 1.4, 7.2, 11.1)
D. Explore the role of the woman in the politics of maternity care and midwifery and how advocacy can bring about reforms and health policy change. (12.2)

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Practice woman centred care (1.0)
  • Demonstrate woman centred care acknowledging the physiological, psychological, cultural and spiritual needs of women, their babies and family members (1.1)
  • Demonstrate an awareness of sustainability of physiological processes to reduce the environmental footprint (1.6)
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and sound clinical judgment that is based on evidence and reflects appropriate reasoning within the relevant professional codes and guidelines (2.2)
  • Communicate effectively using spoken, written and non-verbal language across a range of contexts and to diverse audiences (2.3)
  • Demonstrate information literacy and technology skills and effectively apply these in the exercise of clinical judgement (2.4)
  • Work collaboratively in order to provide excellence in maternity care (3.0)
  • Demonstrate respectful and collegial collaboration with women, professional peers and other stakeholders (3.2)
  • Participate effectively as a member of an interdisciplinary healthcare team (3.3)
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the broader health system and advocate for midwifery as a local and global public health strategy (5.2)
  • Interpret and value the evidence to underpin practice and influence change (6.1)
  • Actively contribute to the development of midwifery as a profession (6.2)

Contribution to the development of graduate attributes

Woman centred care
In this subject, students will be exposed to the underlying social, political and economic structures that are inherent in midwifery and to advocate for women’s human rights in childbirth. These relationships are often complex and impact on the care provided to women. Students will explore popular media and this influences the experience and expectations of women as they seek and experience care.

Professional Competence
Critical thinking and communication skills be highlighted in the subject especially in relation to legal and ethical challenges and when caring for women who make choices that fall out of conventional guidelines and boundaries. Students will also be exposed to emerging areas that will impact their professional life in the future, including genomics.

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 through a better understanding of the health system and working out ways to bring about change.

This subject will expose students to the broader health system and the diverse experiences of consumers. The subject will also highlight the importance of advocacy to ensure the least advantaged women and families have access to the best care. The subject will explore the importance of respectful care and human rights issues in childbirth that especially ensure vulnerable women have quality care.

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 with the framework of power, politics and a human rights agenda.

Case studies and 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 creative 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 issues of the human rights in childbirth movement and the Respectful Care Movement (White Ribbon Alliance).

Students access online learning resources including pre-class activities, podcasts, videos, professional and grey literature prior to the online zoom class. Online resources enable students to clarify complex concepts and terminology, and engage with sensitive or confronting topics at their own pace. These activities are then discussed in the online class or in an online forum to share learning, experiences and reflections.

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
  • Women who 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: Feminism & Midwifery


This reflective writing task is designed to help students explore their own beliefs, biases, and experiences related to feminism and midwifery.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A and C

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

1.0, 1.1, 2.3, 3.2, 3.3 and 5.2

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

800 words.

Assessment task 2: Video Diaries (2A&2B)


The use of a video diary as an assessment item is an effective and engaging approach. This assessment method is designed to facilitate deep reflection on students experiences, thoughts, and observations related to power dynamics and political influences within the field of midwifery as covered in the subject Power, Politics and Midwifery.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

B, C and D

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

1.1, 1.6, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.2, 3.3, 5.2, 6.1 and 6.2

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

Each video diary should be approximately 4-5 minutes in length.

Assessment task 3: Engagement, Peer Review & Reflection


Responding to other students' online posts serves several important purposes that contribute to a richer and more effective learning experience. Responding to peers' posts showcases students' knowledge of the subject matter. It allows students to demonstrate their grasp of concepts and theories in a practical context. Constructive critique or agreement helps develop students critical thinking skills as they assess the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments. Explaining concepts or debating ideas in response to peers' posts also deepens students own understanding of the material. Online interactions provide opportunities for collaborative learning. Through discussions, students will work together to solve problems, clarify doubts, and collectively enhance their understanding. Constructive criticism and suggestions from peers will assist students refine their thoughts and develop a more well-rounded perspective. Finally, the activity is a valuable opportunity to learn, share, and grow within a community of life-long learners, contributing to the students overall educational experience and ability to be solutions-based problem solvers.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

C and D

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

2.2 and 3.0

Type: Reflection
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 10%

Four (4), 100 word response posts. Two for video diary 2A and two for video diary 2B.

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

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 ed.). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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

Pairman, S., Pincombe, J., Thorogood, C. & Tracy, S. (2015). Midwifery: preparation for practice. (3rd ed.). Churchill Livingstone, Sydney

Hill, M. (2019) Give birth like a feminist. Harper Collins, London.

Crowther, S & Hall, J. (2018). Sprirituality and Childbirth: meaning and care at the start of life. Routledge, Oxon.

Other resources

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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

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