Sheila Kitzinger

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Sheila Helena Elizabeth Kitzinger
Sheila Kitzinger.jpg
Born 29 March 1929
Died 11 April 2015
Known for Childbirth Campaigner, Author, Feminist
Children Celia Kitzinger

Sheila Helena Elizabeth Kitzinger MBE (29 March 1929 – 11 April 2015) was a British natural childbirth activist and author on childbirth and pregnancy. She wrote more than 20 books and had a worldwide reputation as a passionate and committed advocate for change.

Life and work[edit]

Kitzinger was born in Taunton, Somerset. She was a social anthropologist specialising in pregnancy, childbirth and the parenting of babies and young children. She campaigned for women to have the information they need to make choices about childbirth and was a well known advocate for breastfeeding.[1] She joined the advisory board of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) in 1958 as a teacher and trainer.

A baby feeding.
A home birth.

She held academic posts at the University of Edinburgh and the Open University,[2][3] and was an honorary professor at the University of West London, where she taught the MA in midwifery in the Wolfson School of Health Sciences. She also taught workshops on the social anthropology of birth and breastfeeding. She wrote many articles and books and was active in midwifery education in the UK and internationally.[4] She lectured widely in the USA and Canada, the Caribbean, Israel, Australia, Latin America, South Africa and Japan and worked as a consultant to the International Childbirth Education Association.

She was a strong believer that all women who are not at high risk should be given the choice of a home birth. Her books cover women's experiences of breastfeeding, antenatal care, birth plans, induction of labour, epidurals, episiotomy, hospital care in childbirth, children's experiences of being present at birth and post traumatic stress following childbirth. Some of her writing was controversial for its time; The Good Birth Guide (1979) may have caused a rift in her relationship with the NCT[3] and she was often at odds with radical feminist views.[5]. Her work is considered influential in changing the culture in which women give birth[2] She believed that: "Birth is a major life transition. It is – must be – also a political issue, in terms of the power of the medical system, how it exercises control over women and whether it enables them to make decisions about their own bodies and their babies."[5] She was awarded an MBE in 1982 in recognition of her services to education for childbirth.

In 1987 she made an extended appearance on television in the first series of Channel 4's After Dark.[6]

Kitzinger died of cancer in Oxfordshire in 2015 after a short illness.[7][8][9] Her autobiography, A Passion for Birth: My Life: Anthropology, Family and Feminism, was published shortly after her death.[5] She has five children; her daughter Celia Kitzinger is a scholar and activist.



  1. ^ "Sheila Kitzinger, 1929 to 2015". The Breastfeeding Network. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  2. ^ a b Hayman, Suzie (2015-04-12). "Sheila Kitzinger obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  3. ^ a b "Pioneer Sheila Kitzinger helped women reclaim control of birth". Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  4. ^ Page, Lesley (2016). "A legacy from Sheila Kitzinger: Continuity of care is crucial". British Journal of Midwifery. 24 (4): 234. doi:10.12968/bjom.2016.24.4.234. 
  5. ^ a b c "A Passion for Birth: My Life, Anthropology, Family and Feminism, by Sheila Kitzinger, Book review". The Independent. 2015-05-16. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  6. ^ See production company website
  7. ^ "Sheila Kitzinger 1929-2015". Pinter & Martin. Archived from the original on 15 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Sheila Kitzinger, childbirth expert - obituary". Retrieved 2017-08-22. 
  9. ^ "Sheila Kitzinger, natural childbirth expert, dies aged 86". BBC News. 2015-04-12. Retrieved 2017-08-22. 

External links[edit]