Midwifery is a practice and tradition that has been carried through many years. I suppose you could say that it’s the art of caring for a woman during her pregnancy. The midwife is responsible for helping birth the child and the aftercare. Midwives were typically women but male midwives weren’t unheard of. Many families still choose to have a home birth rather than to deliver in a hospital or a delivery room.
Midwifery: Caring For Mothers Then And Now
Long before Obstetricians and Gynecologists were being trained to deliver babies Midwifery was passed down from person to person in their own homes. Today in places like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan midwives actually outnumber obstetricians. In colonial America between 1492 and late into the 1700’s a midwife was present for almost ALL births. A midwife studied and practiced from home handing down their knowledge and skills to the next midwife to be. There were no textbooks or worksheets used to study, you learned through experience.
West Africans brought over to the United States on slave ships became midwives all throughout the antebellum south. Once emancipation took place the practice of midwifery continued and the women continued to be a part of both black and white women’s deliveries. They helped birth many babies, mostly in poor rural areas in the south and were referred to as Granny-Midwives.
Midwifery laws were on National levels in Europe and Britain whereas in the United States midwives practiced without laws concerning education until after the 1920’s. There are laws in place currently here in the U.S. but they vary according to state. Somewhere between the years 1910 and 1920 American Obstetricians aka OBGYN’s were found to be terribly trained. In order to provide “Proper” training, the OBGYN’s began recommending that ALL deliveries take place in hospitals. This was all just a part of the plan for the doctors to get practice.
For all those years many babies were brought into this world without a hospital or doctor’s office. In 1914 obstetricians began using something called “Twilight Sleep” which was a concoction of morphine and Scopolamine. The morphine was said to be for the pain and the Scopolamine was for amnesia. Twilight sleep was administered to the mothers in order for them to feel nothing nor have any memories at all of their child’s birth. Infant deaths, as well as, the mother dying giving labor and delivery issues spiked.
Founding Of The Frontier Nursing Service
In 1925 Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service. Mary was a public health nurse in France working for the Red Cross during the end of the first World War. Here is where she learned about midwifery from British nurse-midwives. A nurse-midwife had a combination of training and education from both the midwifery and the obstetrician aspects. She took the time to learn from the British nurse-midwives which sparked the idea for the foundation of FNS in order to help poor families in Kentucky.
It took a long time for this to catch on, seeing as it wasn’t until the mid to late 50’s that nurse-midwives began attending home births. It was around this time that obstetric professional leaders began developing midwifery services in order to help deal with all the babies being born during the famous Baby Boom. Midwives and nurse-midwives were a huge influence to the introduction of concepts such as family-centered maternity care, allowing the father into the room during birth (this was once a huge no-no), and encouraging breastfeeding.
A Massive Comeback
After the Baby Boom life went on as it did and midwifery was once again set on the back burner. The idea of having a midwife came to life again between 1960 and 1970. Midwifery has been fading in and out of history for many years and today in 2017 it is making a massive comeback. Today there are groups like The United States Midwifery Education, Regulations, and Association which makes it a little easier for one to learn the practice of being a midwife. I have several friends that have had home births and they loved it. The relationship between the midwife or a doula and the family is important which provide a growing experience for the whole family.
The University of South Wales shows us a video on how to deliver a baby – study of midwifery:
Not all midwives deliver in the families homes. There are midwives who deliver in hospitals, birthing centers, and in an independent home practice. No matter where they work from they bring their own supplies and interestingly enough there are actually some insurance companies that will cover the medical coverage. I hope this time midwifery sticks around for good as I feel it is up to the patient to decide the place of child birthing. It is, however, a magical experience. Happy Throwback Thursday!
Do you want to share anything about midwifery and how it has impacted our lives? Let us know in the comment section below.
Featured Image via flickr
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