Mavis Kirkham is emeritus professor of midwifery at Sheffield Hallam University and holds honorary professorial positions at the University of Technology, Sydney, and Auckland University of Technology.
She worked continuously as a midwife researcher and a clinical midwife for over 40 years. Her clinical work was mainly involved with homebirth and she worked in a rural birth centre.
She sees herself as a hybrid researcher, having worked in the disciplines of social anthropology, sociology, politics, and history, using qualitative, observational, and ethnographic methods. as well as surveys and archive work. Her abiding research interest is in people’s relationship with and efforts to control their work and its setting. This started with a study of the history of workers co-operatives (1972), and for the last 30 years has been concerned with childbearing women and midwives. Four studies have linked in with the original theme of job satisfaction and control at work—this time with midwives.
Her books include Informed Choice in Maternity Care, Birth Centres: A social model of maternity care, The Midwife/Mother Relationship, and Exploring the Dirty Side of Women’s Health. Since her official retirement, her research has included a study of a “failed” birth centres and a review of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the care of independent midwives. She is currently collecting stories of births without professional attendants.
Now at the end of a long career in midwifery, she is interested in reflecting and writing on midwifery in its wider context. Her central professional concern is with continuity of midwifery care: its enabling effects n mothers, families, and midwives and the conditions which foster it.
She has long been concerned with how birth stories are negotiated and adjusted and the impact of these stories on tellers and hearers.