Confronting rhetorical disability: A critical analysis of women's birth plans

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26 Scopus citations


Through its analysis of birth plans, documents some women create to guide their birth attendants' actions during hospital births, this article reveals the rhetorical complexity of childbirth and analyzes women's attempts to harness birth plans as tools of resistance and self-education. Asserting that technologies can both silence and give voice, the article examines women's use of technologies of writing to confront technologies of birth. The article draws on data from online childbirth narratives, a childbirth writing survey, and five women's birth plans to argue that women's silencing, or rhetorical disability, during childbirth both prompts and limits the birth plan as an effective communicative tool. The data suggest that the birth plan is not consistently effective in the ways its authors intend. Nonetheless, this analysis also demonstrates that the rhetorical failure of the birth plan can be read as, and thereby transformed into, rhetorical possibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-272
Number of pages26
JournalWritten Communication
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Birth plans
  • Bodily authority
  • Childbirth writing
  • Rhetorical agency
  • Rhetorical possibility
  • Technological authority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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