Re‐centering Relationships: Obstetric Violence, Health Care Rationalities, and Pandemic Childbirth in Canada


Emerging evidence suggests that the COVD‐19 pandemic is eroding childbirth rights. Drawing on narratives of women who gave birth in Canada during the pandemic, this article exposes a paradox in that policies aimed at limiting interpersonal contact implicitly acknowledge the connection between health, well‐being, and the social context of people’s lives, yet they frame this relationality as a liability to be eliminated. They do this despite the many benefits that social support is known to confer for pregnancy and childbirth. I suggest that obstetric violence theory could be expanded to include the perinatal health care system’s failure to consider the well‐being of pregnant and birthing persons as necessarily interdependent with that of close others. Conscientiously and routinely making the safeguarding of these relationships a priority in perinatal health care planning may strengthen existing health care systems against certain forms of obstetric violence. [childbirth, COVID‐19, obstetric violence, relational personhood, Canada]