OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Anthropologist/midwife to discuss ‘Politics of Being Born’ at Science Pub

06/01/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As modern health care continues to evolve, so does the ongoing debate regarding giving birth at home or in a hospital. And no one knows that better than Melissa Cheyney, who holds the distinction of not only being a medical anthropologist but a licensed midwife, research director of the Midwives Alliance of North America and a mother.

Cheyney will discuss “‘The Politics and Science of Being Born: Location, Location, Location” in a Science Pub Corvallis presentation Monday, June 14, at the Old World Deli, 341 SW 2nd St. in downtown Corvallis.

Recent international studies show that the United States ranks 28th in the world for maternal health, below Greece, Portugal and virtually all of Western Europe. In addition, the United States now lags on child mortality rates behind most of Europe, as well as countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Serbia, Chile and Cuba. For researchers such as Cheyney, these statistics are not only alarming, but necessitate a need for action and policy guidance.

Cheyney for years has studied and written about the mechanisms that perpetuate the “home/hospital divide.” Her work has led her to support an “integrated medicine” approach to birth that recognizes the benefits of weaving together traditional birthing practices and newer biomedical techniques. It’s an approach drawn from deep familiarity: Her research includes the wide-ranging Oregon Midwives Study, a key part of a larger, nationwide prospective project that is examining 100 variables for each birth and that will have a sample size of nearly 20,000 deliveries by the end of its current data collection cycle.

Cheyney’s research has made her an in-demand consultant for policymakers in Indiana, Idaho and Oregon deliberating on issues of legalization and licensure for midwives and has been featured in TIME. In Oregon she has testified at hearings held by the Oregon Health Licensing Agency on changing licensure from voluntary to mandatory, and next month, she’ll present to a government panel in Mexico, which is considering new legislation governing home births.

Later in June, she’ll be a featured speaker for Portland’s “Midwifery and Maternal Child Health Educators Conference.” Cheyney’s new book, “Born at Home: The Biological, Cultural and Political Dimensions of Maternity Care in the United States,” was released in March by Wadsworth Publishing.

An assistant professor in the OSU College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Anthropology, Cheyney is part of the Reproductive Health Lab and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

Science Pub-Corvallis takes place the second Monday evening of each month at Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis, beginning at 6 p.m. While it is free and open to the public, attendees are encouraged to arrive early, as space and seating are limited. For more information, call 541-737-4611 or visit Corvallis Science Pub on Facebook.