Risky needling : a localised South Island study of women's experiences of amniocentesis
McKay, Willow Reay
This thesis evolved from a question about how women experience amniocentesis in a New Zealand context, and emerged as a localised South Island study of women's amniocentesis experiences. The research process involved several methods including participant observation of both amniocentesis procedures and the counselling sessions that precede them at 'Southern Hospital' Antenatal Clinic. In addition, three consultants who perform the procedures, the assisting midwife, and receptionist were all interviewed about their role in the clinic's practice of amniocentesis, as well as their understandings of the technology. Thirteen women (who were recruited through the Antenatal Clinic) were also interviewed retrospectively about their experiences of amniocentesis. The collected data was then placed in the context of the international English language literature concerning prenatal testing. When communicating their experiences of amniocentesis it became evident that the women were telling stories, and so narrative analysis was used to frame the research. This perspective also allowed an investigation of further stories of amniocentesis, for instance, the stories of consultants, counselling sessions, medical discourse, popular culture, and the social scientists who have studied this procedure. The findings of this thesis locate amniocentesis as embedded within our interconnected physical, social, and cultural worlds. Some of the many themes that emerged through the analysis of this research include motherhood as an ideology that intersects with the technology in various ways, the contested nature of choice, and centrality of disability (and so 'normality' and 'abnormality') to understandings of amniocentesis. The women's stories also spoke about wider issues in society, such as the type of children that we want, the ways in which society privileges medicine and technology as a system of knowledge, and also amniocentesis as a site of gender negotiation, which identifies how the technology of amniocentesis can be approached with various agencies. The 'point' of amniocentesis was also investigated from various angles, identifying the very complex and situated understandings of the purpose of the test. Lastly the concept of risk, which is central to the practice and understanding of amniocentesis was investigated, identifying multi-layered perceptions and influences of risk for both the women who experience the procedure of amniocentesis and the consultants who perform it.
Advisor: Fitzgerald, Ruth; Legge, Mark
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Research Type: Thesis