Sheila Kitzinger, the “high priestess of natural childbirth” who has died aged 86, could reasonably be said to have done more than anyone else to change attitudes to birth in the past 50 years.
It was her belief that childbirth should not be reduced to a pathological event and she waged a relentless crusade against its medicalisation. She felt obstetricians had taken control, pushing aside the hands-on experience of midwives and the personal needs and wishes of mothers.
After training to teach drama and voice production, she went to Oxford, where she studied social anthropology.
Kitzinger had two passionate concerns in life: the marginalisation of people who did not fit into society and women and childbirth. She came to real prominence with the publication of her book The Experience of Childbirth in 1962.
A prolific writer, Kitzinger was a birth activist who campaigned for choice. Her crusade was to change the culture in which women give birth and she largely succeeded.
She was appointed MBE in 1982 in recognition of her services to education for childbirth. Her autobiography, A Passion for Birth: My Life – Anthropology, Family and Feminism is due to be published next month.
She is survived by her husband and five daughters.