Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Clark Sage

Second Advisor

Alicia Suarez

Third Advisor

Ted Bitner


This paper will examine the effects that over-medicalization and criminalization have had on the state of giving birth in the United States. It will attempt to offer insight on why the United States ranks near the bottom of countries that are considered “developed” in maternal mortality rates and infant mortality rates, despite spending the highest percentage of gross national product on health care. The paper will analyze: the history behind the medicalization of birth in the United States, different methods of over-medicalization, the impacts of unnecessary medical interventions, different incentives driving medicalization, the history of criminalization of pregnant women, the State intervention of women who are suspected of using illegal drugs while pregnant, narratives centered around the topic of medicalization and criminalization of birth and the pregnant body, and potential avenues for change to curve the over-medicalization and criminalization of birth. By examining these aspects of birth in the United States, it will provide insight into the adverse effects that many of these policies and practices are perpetuating. It will also demonstrate the need for change in the way that birth and pregnancy is viewed. It should be noted that these are not the only contributing factors that explain the state of giving birth in the United States, but what has been selected to be the primary focal points examined in this paper.


Honor Scholar Thesis