Theses and Dissertations


Colleen Elmer

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Copeland, Toni J.

Committee Member

Hoffman, David M.

Committee Member

Zuckerman, Molly K.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Applied Anthropology

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures


For many American women, insurance restrictions and lack of access restrict women’s options when choosing birth experiences. This research uses a biocultural approach and cognitive anthropological methods to explore the ways and the degree to which alternative birthing practices, such as home-, clinic-, and hospital-based natural births, and midwifery services, physically and emotionally affect the women and infants who experience them. This research explores the reasons women pursue natural or alternative births. These topics are explored through interviews with women who have had natural births, who have used midwifery services, and who have had highly medicalized, OBGYN-attended births. Findings indicate that while there is not an overarching cultural model of how women want to experience birth, there is a shared cultural model concerning the nature of birth among Mississippi women. Results show that women benefit more, emotionally and physically, from natural birth and midwifery care than from highly medicalized birth.