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My research bridges the areas of medicine, gender, and work, with a focus on women’s health, and reproductive health in particular. My dissertation, an ethnographic study of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and DONA International Certified Birth Doulas, brings the literatures of medicalization and care work together in a new way that shows how medicalization shapes caring labor and how demedicalization can be accomplished through medicalizing certain spheres of health care. My comparison of these two groups’ roles in the maternity care system -- including the meaning and function of their caring labor, their strategies for navigating the occupational boundaries of maternity clinicians, and their approaches to creating change in maternity care practices -- allowed me to see that the increased popularity of lactation consultants and doulas is not simply an outsourcing of care, but instead represents a change in the nature of caring. I also discovered that lactation consultants have found a way to medicalize breastfeeding in order to demedicalize the practice. In addition, my data allowed me to explain how doulas, who experience overlap in occupational boundaries with maternity clinicians, are able to use their acceptance as care workers on the maternity care team to employ strategies of indirect advocacy and subtle resistance to create change “one birth at a time.”
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