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Home birth pioneer Kitzinger dies

Published 12/04/2015

Sheila Kitzinger was a pioneer of home births
Sheila Kitzinger was a pioneer of home births

"Pioneering" natural childbirth guru, anthropologist and author Sheila Kitzinger has died aged 86.

Ms Kitzinger developed the concept of a "birth plan" in the 1960s and 1970s, which aimed to give more choice to pregnant women.

A passionate advocate of home birth and natural birth, she had her own five children at home and believed midwives played a crucial role.

She died "calmly" at her home in Oxfordshire yesterday following a short illness, her publisher said.

Professor Celia Kitzinger, Ms Kitzinger's oldest daughter, said " Sheila taught me, from an early age, that the personal was political - not just by what she said but by what she did.

"As I was growing up I learnt from her campaigns for freedom and choice in childbirth that passionate and committed individuals can create social change. She never hesitated to speak truth to power.

"I am reminded, reading her autobiography, of the sheer range and breadth of the issues she has been involved in - from female genital mutilation to prisoners giving birth in handcuffs and human rights in midwifery in Eastern Europe.

"She is so much more than a 'natural birth guru'."

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said Ms Kitzinger had a "pioneering and inestimable influence" on modern midwifery over the last 40 years.

Ms Warwick said: "She challenged the orthodoxy of a passive, over-medicalised approach to childbirth, from the 1970s to today, and gave women a sense of their entitlement to choice.

"A doughty feminist, an influential author, and a committed campaigner, she was a great friend of the midwifery profession, and will be as greatly missed as her legacy will be celebrated."

In her 1962 book The Experience of Childbirth Ms Kitzinger argued that birth had the potential to be a "psychosexual experience".

Other books she wrote were The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Ourselves as Mothers.

Her autobiography - A Passion for Birth: My life: anthropology, family and feminism - is due to be published next month.

Her publisher Pinter & Martin said: "Sheila Kitzinger was an extraordinary woman and tirelessly campaigned to make the world a better place for us all.

"She will be missed more than she could have ever imagined, but we can find comfort in the fact that she inspired countless others to continue her vital work.

Her husband Uwe Kitzinger, who she met while studying at Oxford and married in 1952, said she was "a woman of great spunk", according to the BBC.

"She was an icon of home birth who decided to have a home death."

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