Philosophy of Birth Network

Network Leads

Stella Villarmea

Professor of Philosophy at Complutense University of Madrid

Associate Member in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.


Stella Villarmea is a main contributor to the emergent field of the Philosophy of Birth. With an expertise in epistemology and feminism, her works address the philosophical relation between knowledge and emancipation. She has published on conceptual innovation and scepticism, as well as on Wittgenstein, Kant, and Levinas.

As a Marie S. Curie Fellow at the University of Oxford, she led the research project, ‘Controversies in Childbirth: from Epistemology to Practices (VOICEs)’, funded by the European Commission (2018-20). As the principal investigator of the project, ‘Philosophy of Birth: Rethinking the Origin from Medical Humanities (PHILBIRTH-1)’, funded by the Ministry of Economy in Spain, she coordinated an interdisciplinary team of philosophers, health practitioners and social scientists around childbirth and birth care (2016-19). She currently leads the Programme of Excellence, ‘Philosophy of Birth: A New Logos for Genos (PHILBIRTH-2)’, funded by the Government of Madrid (2021-24).

Member of the Steering and Gender Committees of the International Federation of Philosophical Associations (FISP), she has been Speaker of the International Association of Women Philosophers (IAPH), and Board member of the Spanish Network for Philosophy (REF).

Stella Villarmea´s outreach activity focuses on the educational and health sectors.

Preferred Contact:

Brenda Kelley
Brenda Kelly

Consultant in Obstetrics and Fetomaternal Medicine at Oxford University Hospitals, NHS


A medical graduate from Edinburgh University, Brenda undertook core training in London where she also obtained her PhD in cardiovascular biology in pregnancy.
She completed advanced specialty training in Oxford and was appointed consultant in 2012.  Brenda is clinical lead for Maternity Safety and in addition has an interest in migrant women’s health.  She founded and leads the Oxford Rose Clinic, a specialist service for women and girls with FGM, is a member of Oxford Refugee Health Initiative and the Health Access Group at Asylum Welcome.  She is also a member of Oxford University Hospitals Clinical Ethics Advisory Committee.

Preferred Contact:

Soo Downe
Soo Downe

Professor of Midwifery Studies at University of Central Lancashire, co-Director, THRIVE Centre School of Community Health and Midwifery


Soo is a midwife with a particular research focus on the nature of, and cultures around, normal birth. Soo has undertaken research using a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods, from phenomenology and ethnography to surveys, RCTs, and epidemiological analysis of large data sets. As well as undertaking research, she teaches on both undergraduate and postgraduate research programmes, and she regularly works with the World Health Organisation and with other research, practice, and public health leaders in maternity care around the world.

Preferred Contact:

Network Team Members

Rodante van der Waal

Independent midwife in Amsterdam 

PhD candidate at the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht


Rodante van der Waal (1992) is an independent midwife in Amsterdam and a PhD candidate at the University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht, the Netherlands. She has a BA and MA in Philosophy (cum laude) and wrote her MA thesis on the ontology of pregnancy and Pregnant Posthuman subjectivity (see the lemma in: Posthuman Glossary (2018), eds Braidotti and Hlavajova). Her PhD study investigates obstetric violence from feminist, postcolonial and care-ethical theory. Rodante is the co-founder of the Critical Midwifery Studies Collective

Preferred Contact:


Twitter: @RodantevdWaal

Virginia Ballesteros

Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Logic and Theoretical Philosophy at the Complutense University of Madrid


Virginia Ballesteros completed her PhD in Philosophy at the University of Valencia, with the dissertation, Conceptions of Mental Illness: in Search of Reality (2021). She holds a postgraduate degree in Therapeutic Action and its Social Repercussions (UNED, 2017) and a master’s degree in Contemporary Philosophical Thought (University of Valencia, 2015). She has done a research stay at the Sapienza University of Rome and at the Institute for Philosophical Research of Lyon.

Her research focuses on the philosophy of birth — particularly, on the metaphysical and epistemological aspects of birth care. She is also interested in the philosophy of psychiatry, i.e. the metaphysical assumptions underlying the conception and treatment of mental illness and the role of altered states of consciousness in psychiatry.

She is a member of the research project, ‘Philosophy of Birth: A New Logos for Genos (PHILBIRTH-2)’, Programme of Excellence, Complutense University of Madrid (2021-23).

Preferred Contact:

Rebeca Granero Ferrer


PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the University of Valencia


Rebeca Granero Ferrer is a graduate in Midwifery of the City University of London (2016). She has worked as a midwife for the NHS in the UK, and for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in humanitarian settings in Bangladesh and Central African Republic. She currently works as an independent midwife in Spain.

She is a PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the University of Valencia. Her dissertation takes a philosophical approach to birth to explore the epistemic injustice that women face during childbirth, with a particular emphasis on the implicit associations that discredit women in labour as subjects of knowledge. She holds a Master in Human Rights, Democracy and International Justice (University of Valencia, 2020), and a Master in Gender, Sexuality and Society (Birkbeck College, University of London, 2018).

Preferred Contact:

Network Focus
Through the lived experiences of women, illuminated by the insights from the vibrant new field of the philosophy of birth, the Philosophy of Birth Network aims to explore how we understand the practices that bring us into being, challenging widely-held assumptions about rationality and agency in the delivery suite.
Background and Aims

Philosophy of Birth - A Vibrant and Growing Field of Contemporary Critical Thought

Birth care brings to the fore fascinating philosophical questions: is a person in labour a subject with full rights in practice as well as in theory? Can they  exercise their autonomy in a situation of maximum vulnerability? How do we understand the incredible lucidity and awareness that characterises the work of giving birth? What is the relationship between fertility, pregnancy, birth, and the child´s natality? How do agency, capacity, and pain intertwine during and between contractions? Birth poses key questions relating to knowledge, freedom, gender, and what it means to be a human being. The Philosophy of Birth Network will engage in translational philosophy, of relevance for both philosophers and birth practitioners. Through Live & Unplugged Conversations on Birth Care, we seek to bridge the silos that have existed historically between women’s health and philosophical thinking. We hope the Philosophy of Birth Network contributes to develop insights on how to make our birth practices more values-based and person-centered.
Network Members
The Philosophy of Birth Network is open to all working at the intersection of conceptual and empirical approaches to values-based medicine, philosophy of birth, obstetrics, and midwifery (as well philosophy of medicine and medical humanities). We welcome academics, health care professionals, policy makers, and experts by experience. We are committed to developing a diverse Network. We are international in scope and seek to aid communication and collaboration between people and groups in academia, practice, and communities to enable the sharing of knowledge across backgrounds and cultures, and within different societal and health care contexts.

How to join the network

For more information, please contact: Stella Villarmea
How we work
Meetings and activities are organised regularly to advance our objectives and promote concepts of shared decision-making and co-productive research and exchange. The Network will work mainly by email and through local or online initiatives led by members. We aim to arrange an annual meeting in different locations through the resources of The Collaborating Centre in Values-based Practice in Health and Social Care at St Catherine´s College, Oxford, and other institutions involved in the Network.
Network Ethos
The Philosophy of Birth Network: Live & Unplugged Conversations on Reproductive Care is one of the Values-based Practice Networks affiliated to The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice at St Catherine´s College, University of Oxford. The Values-based Practice Networks strive to advance co-productive and values-based practice principles by ensuring equality of access and voice. Therefore, members are requested to adhere to accessibility practices, for example, using plain English, avoiding acronyms, and sharing resources between different stakeholders.
Research Projects
Research Projects The Philosophy of Birth Network: Live & Unplugged Conversations on Reproductive Care, based at The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice in Health and Social Care, St Catherine´s College, Oxford, is an outcome of the following research projects:  
Philosophy of Birth: A New Logos for Genos (PHILBIRTH-2) Professorship of Excellence Research Programme, Complutense University of Madrid/ Government of Madrid Every human life begins with gestation and birth. However, giving birth continues to be a blind spot in contemporary prevailing philosophy. This project is about why and how we should introduce birth into the canon of subjects explored by philosophy.
Controversies in Childbirth: from Epistemology to Practices (VOICEs)’ EC Marie S. Curie Action, Faculty of Philosophy/ The Collaborating Centre for Values-based Practice at St Catherine´s College, University of Oxford The project applies the epistemological theory of controversies to the values embedded in decision-making in the field aiming at developing a particular section of values-based practice to be used in a variety of clinical contexts around childbirth. Full report available here.  
Philosophy of Birth: Rethinking the Origin from Medical Humanities (PHILBIRTH-1) Ministry of Economy in Spain Research Programme, University of Alcalá, Madrid Pregnancy and birth are unique human experiences, not comparable to any other. The project addresses how our concepts of pregnancy and childbirth reflect our view of the world and of human being.  
WikiVBP Reference Library, ‘Philosophy of Birth WikiVBP Library’. Online
The library aims to provide a well-focused resource of literature and other materials supporting study, training, research, and policy developments in values-based practice in childbirth. The library depends on everyone submitting content – this is why it is a wikiVBP library. See How to Submit Content.
Research Webinar, ‘Live & Unplugged Conversations on Birth’, Online, University of Oxford/ Complutense University of Madrid, from October 2023
Live & Unplugged Conversations on Birth is where philosophy translates in clinical practice and lively conversations begin. In this exploratory laboratory, we will bridge traditional silos between reproductive care and philosophy. We have the opportunity here to create participatory values-based practice in childbirth for all to enrich us all. The session will consist of a presentation and conversation with an expert in the field, followed by discussion. We envisage that each one-hour session will have assigned pre-reading: one theoretical/ philosophical text and one clinical/ practical text on a given theme/ idea. The texts will be suggested by you, the Network members, to work in parallel and illuminate the conversations.

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How to join the network

We welcome new members from across the globe with an interest in values-based approaches to birth care and research. For more information or to join the Philosophy of Birth Network, please contact: Stella Villarmea

Past Network Meetings and Webinars

Please see below for a list of meetings, webinars and activities held by the Philosophy of Birth Network
University of Oxford/ Complutense University of Madrid, 5 July 2023, 10am-12.30pm UK time/ 11am-1.30pm CET.

We will introduce the Network, explore together the vision, and move towards this. This is a Network that exists together and exists for us. The process of exchange, dialogue, and discussion is not a means to an end but the very essence of our Network.


30th June 2021

This webinar is organised by Prof. Stella Villarmea in collaboration with the Center for Values Based Practice.
What do we mean by informed consent and shared decision-making in childbirth? Does informed consent just equate shared decision-making? Who, of all involved, has the final say? Birth care proposes key questions relating to knowledge, freedom, and what it means to be a human being. These questions will be explored by Prof. Brenda Kelly, Prof. Soo Downe and Prof. Stella Villarmea along with testimonials from individuals about their birthing experience.

26 November 2020

A webinar launching the Centre’s work over the coming five years following successful renewal of its funding. Presentations were divided into three sessions: Networks and Research, Education, and International Developments

Future Network Meetings and Webinars

To keep up to date with our activities, please subscribe to our mailing list here [subscribe here]. For a list of our future activities, meetings and webinars please see below:
University of La Sapienza, Rome, 1-8 August 2024

More information about the Thematic Section ‘Philosophy of Birth’, the World Congress of Philosophy, and submission of proposals here.

Quick Links

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Contact Us

If you have any ideas, suggestions or queries or would like further information please contact us

WikiVBP Reference Library

The wikiVBP Reference Library aims to provide a focused resource of literature and other materials supporting training, research and policy developments in values-based practice.

Please Click Here to go to the library

Key Areas of Collaboration

Core activities of the Centre are based around three inter-linked areas, Education, Regulation and Integration, together with crosscutting themes of Theory and Practice

Read More about Key Areas of Collaboration

Values-based Surgical Care

Values-based practice in surgery is an innovative approach to decision making in surgery, linking science with people.


To read more please Click Here

Training Materials and Resources

The CUP Book Series

Cambridge University Press has a VBP book series.

Click here to find out more