Instruments or hands? ‘Nature’ and the practice of obstetric surgeons in early eighteenth-century Germany

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week, Gabrielle Robilliard writes about 18th-century midwifery in Germany and the clash between male and female practitioners. 

If you wanted to edify yourself in 1790s Germany on the history of midwifery, you might have consulted J. G. Krünitz’s Oekonomische Encyklopädie (published 1773–1858), the most comprehensive German-language encyclopaedia of its time, which would have told you that:

For around 100 years in various countries in Europe, but largely in France, England and Holland, and now in many places in Germany, one has greatly improved the art of midwifery, and had few qualms about allowing several men well trained in that art to practise it rather than common midwives: indeed, in many large cities one has appointed several [men] skilled and experienced in this art … especially to provide advice and assistance to pregnant and parturient women and, in emergencies, to provide a helping hand.[1]

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Mama Sherpas (2015) reviewed

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This first post of the new academic year is contributed by Naomi Redina who has reviewed the 2015 film documentary The Mama Sherpas.

After being pressured into an unwanted c-section with her first child, director Brigid Maher sought to understand if it is “even possible for women to have a natural childbirth in a hospital.”  The Mama Sherpas (2015) — executive produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein — investigates collaborative care between midwives and physicians.  Throughout the film, “natural” birth is mentioned as ideal. Aren’t all births that results in a baby exiting the womb via the vagina, “natural?” An inattention to language resulted in the film discussing “natural” birth but really meaning “birth with as minimal intervention as mom wants.” At the end, Maher mentions there are various models of midwifery, including that which supports “natural” birth or the use of an epidural. Epidurals were never discussed in the filmed office visits, and only one c-section was shown. The c-section was sanctioned by the midwives because of health risks to the mother. Continue reading