On the Margins of the Periphery: Unassisted Childbirth and the Management of Layered Stigma

Amy Chasteen Miller, University of Southern Mississippi


This article examines an unusual practice-unassisted childbirth-and the ways in which advocates and practitioners manage the stigma they are accorded. Given their "doubly deviant" status as not only women who birth at home but also as women who choose to give birth without professional assistance, these women provide a unique case for our theoretical understanding of stigma management. As members of homebirth social networks, the women must reckon with what I term layered stigma, the broad stigma of homebirth as well as the deeper in-group stigma within their deviant community that results from their rejection of midwives as appropriate care providers. By examining the dynamics of stigma management among practitioners of unassisted childbirth, I highlight the complex, situation-dependent nature of stigma and the impact of its management on women's sense of self.