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Birth without Violence (1975), by Frederick Leboyer

In Birth without Violence (1975), French obstetrician Frederick Leboyer describes in poetic form the possible perceptions and feelings of embryos and fetuses before, during, and after birth. His work has helped to promote a gentler and more sensitive birthing method with the goal of easing the newborn's transition from the womb to the outside world. Leboyer's birthing method influenced later birth techniques such as water birth and unassisted childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

“Elective Induction of Labor” (1955), by Edward Bishop

In 1955, obstetrician Edward Bishop, a physician specializing in childbirth, published the article “Elective Induction of Labor,” in which he proposed the best conditions for pregnant women to elect to induce, or begin, labor. Elective induction of labor requires an obstetrician to administer a drug to help a pregnant woman to start her contractions, and to rupture the fluid-filled sac surrounding the fetus called the amniotic sac.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

“Pelvic Scoring for Elective Induction” (1964), by Edward Bishop

In the 1964 article, “Pelvic Scoring for Elective Induction,” obstetrician Edward Bishop describes his method to determine whether a doctor should induce labor, or artificially start the birthing process, in a pregnant woman. Aside from medical emergencies, a woman can elect to induce labor to choose when she gives birth and have a shorter than normal labor. The 1964 publication followed an earlier article by Bishop, also about elective induction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

Ina May Gaskin (1940– )

Ina May Gaskin is a certified professional midwife, or CPM, in the US during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. She worked at the Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee, a center well known for its low rates of intervention, which contributed to low rates of maternal and fetal mortality. One technique Gaskin used when assisting women with delivery helped resolve a complication called shoulder dystocia, which is when a part of the infant’s body is delivered, but the rest of the body is stuck in the birth canal.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

The Business of Being Born (2008)

In 2008, Barranca Productions released a documentary called The Business of Being Born, detailing the topic of childbirth. Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein produced and directed the documentary. The documentary explores pregnancy related healthcare in the US, including the history of midwives and obstetrics. The film also discusses potential consequences of medicalized childbirth common in the twenty-first century. The Business of Being Born provides viewers with information about home-births, midwives, and the positive and negative aspects of going to the hospital for childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach

Evaluation of the Newborn Infant--Second Report (1958), by Virginia Apgar et al.

Virginia Apgar and colleagues wrote “Evaluation of the Newborn Infant—Second Report” in 1958. This article explained that Apgar’s system for evaluating infants’ condition after birth accurately predicted the health of infants. Apgar had developed the scoring system in 1953 to provide a simple method for determining if an infant needed medical attention after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Reproduction, Publications

DONA International (1992– )

In 1992, five maternal-infant health researchers founded Doulas of North America, later renamed DONA International to train certified birth attendants called doulas to provide care to pregnant women both before and after the birthing process. Annie Kennedy, John Kennell, Marshall Klaus, Phyllis Klaus, and Penny Simkin used the term doula, derived from the Greek word for woman servant, to describe a female birthing aide who provides non-medical emotional and physical support to laboring pregnant women.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

James Young Simpson (1811–1870)

James Young Simpson was one of the first obstetricians to administer anesthesia during childbirth in nineteenth century Scotland. Before his work in the 1800s, physicians had few ways to reduce the pain of childbirth. Simpson experimented with the use of ether and chloroform, both gaseous chemicals, to temporarily relieve pain. He found that those chemicals both successfully inhibited the pain women felt during childbirth and pain during other surgeries. Patients under the influence of chloroform fell asleep and were unaware of the intense pain of childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

"'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth" (1978), by Barbara L.K. Pillsbury

In 1978 Social Science and Medicine published Barbara L.K. Pillsbury's article, 'Doing the Month': Confinement and Convalescence of Chinese Women After Childbirth, which summarized the results of Pillsbury's study on Chinese childbirth customs. Pillsbury, a professor of cultural anthropology at San Diego State University in San Diego, California, conducted over eighty interviews with people in Taiwan and China, including civilians, herbalists, and physicians over a four-month period in 1975.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Twilight Sleep

Twilight Sleep (Dammerschlaf) was a form
of childbirth first used in the early twentieth century in Germany in
which drugs caused women in labor to enter a state of sleep prior to
giving birth and awake from childbirth with no recollection of the
procedure. Prior to the early twentieth century, childbirth was
performed at home and women did not have anesthetics to alleviate the
pain of childbirth. In 1906, obstetricians Bernhardt Kronig and Karl
Gauss developed the twilight sleep method in 1906 to relieve the pain of

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

"The Association between Depressive Symptoms and Social Support in Taiwanese Women During the Month" (2004), by Shu-Shya Heh et al.

In 2004, Shu-Shya Heh, Lindsey Coombes, and Helen Bartlett studied the association between Chinese postpartum (post-childbirth) practices and postpartum depression in Taiwanese women. The researchers surveyed Taiwanese women about the social support they received after giving birth and then evaluated the depression rates in the same women. Heh and her colleagues focused on the month following childbirth, which according to traditional Chinese medicine, is an important period that warrants a set of specialized practices to aid the woman's recovery.

Format: Articles

Subject: Experiments

William Smellie (1697–1763)

William Smellie helped to incorporate scientific medicine into the process of childbirth in eighteenth century Britain. As a male physician practicing in childbirth and female reproductive health (man-midwife), Smellie developed and taught procedures to treat breech fetuses, which occur when a fetus fails to rotate its head towards the birth canal during delivery. Throughout his career, Smellie compiled a wealth of information about female anatomy in his writings. He modified medical technology such as the obstetrical forceps, an instrument used to maneuver the fetus during childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Use of Morphine and Scopolamine to Induce Twilight Sleep

In 1907, researchers Bernhardt Kronig and Carl Gauss combined the drugs morphine and scopolamine to induce twilight sleep in women during childbirth. Physicians in the early twentieth century in Germany used twilight sleep, Dammerschlaf, to cause women to enter a state of consciousness in which they felt no pain and did not remember giving birth. Twilight sleep was associated with increased use of forceps during delivery, prolonged labor, and increased risk of infant suffocation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes

John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)

John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1929–1970)

Starting in 1929, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists was a professional association of physicians in the UK that aimed to improve the care of women in childbirth through training and education and to establish obstetrics and gynecology as a medical specialty. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has contributed to women’s reproductive health by fostering research, establishing standards for physicians specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, and influencing legislation.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Intrauterine Pressure Catheter

An intrauterine pressure catheter (IUPC) is a device placed inside a pregnant woman’s uterus to monitor uterine contractions during labor. During labor, a woman’s uterus contracts to dilate, or open, the cervix and push the fetus into the birth canal. The catheter measures the pressure within the amniotic space during contractions and allows physicians to evaluate the strength, frequency, and duration of contractions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Jesse Bennett (1769–1842)

Jesse Bennett, sometimes spelled Bennet, practiced medicine in the US during the late eighteenth century and performed one of the first successful cesarean operations, later called cesarean sections, in 1794. Following complications during his wife’s childbirth, Bennett made an incision through her lower abdomen and uterus to deliver their infant. Bennett’s biographers report that his operation was the first cesarean section where both the pregnant woman and the infant survived.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Virginia Apgar (1909-1974)

Virginia Apgar worked as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, administering drugs that reduce women’s pain during childbirth, in the US in the mid-twentieth century. In 1953, Apgar created a scoring system using five easily assessable measurements, including heart rate and breathing rate, to evaluate whether or not infants would benefit from medical attention immediately after birth. Apgar’s system showed that infants who were previously set aside as too sick to survive, despite low Apgar scores, could recover with immediate medical attention.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Leonard Colebrook (1883–1967)

Leonard Colebrook was a physician who researched bacteria and infections in England during the twentieth century. In 1936, Colebrook deployed the antibiotic Prontosil to treat puerperal fever, a disorder that results from bacterial infections in the uterine tracts of women after childbirth or abortions. Colebrook also advanced care for burn patients by advocating for the creation of burn units in hospitals and by using antisepsis medication for burn wound infections. Colebrook’s work on treatments for puerperal fever reduced cases of puerperal fever throughout the world.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Smith v. Cote (1986)

The case of Smith v. Cote (1986) answered two important questions concerning law and childbirth: does the State of New Hampshire recognize a cause of action for what is defined as wrongful birth, and does the State recognize a cause of action for what is classified as wrongful life? In the case of Smith v. Cote, damages were permitted for wrongful birth, but not for the action of wrongful life.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Disorders

"Conservatism in Obstetrics" (1916), by Edwin B. Cragin

In 1916 Edwin B. Cragin in the United States published Conservatism in Obstetrics in which he discussed medical practices and techniques to preserve the vitality of pregnant women and their fetuses. Cragin argued that women who give birth via cesarean section, the surgical act of making an incision through both the abdomen and uterus to remove the fetus from a pregnant woman's womb, must rely on that method for future births. That claim was later coined the Dictum of Cragin.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"A Proposal for a New Method of Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" (1953), by Virginia Apgar

In 1953, Virginia Apgar published the article "A Proposal for a New Method for Evaluation of the Newborn Infant" about her method for scoring newborn infants directly after birth to assess their health and whether medical intervention was necessary. Apgar worked at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, New York, as an obstetrical anesthesiologist, a physician who administers pain medication during childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

"National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement September 22–24, 1980” (1980), by the National Institutes of Health

In 1980 the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) released a report titled, “National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement September 22–24, 1980.” The report lists recommendations for birth delivery through cesarean sections, a surgical procedure used to deliver the fetus via the pregnant woman’s abdomen. The recommendations arose from the 1980 Consensus Development Conference on Cesarean Childbirth in Bethesda, Maryland.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

The Impact of the Safe Motherhood Initiative from 1987 to 2000

In 1987, the World Health Organization, or WHO, took action to improve the quality of maternal health around the world through the declaration of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, or the SMI, at an international conference concerning maternal mortality in Nairobi, Kenya. Initially, the SMI aimed to reduce the prevalence of maternal mortality around the world, as over 500,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth annually at the time of its inception, while about 98 percent of those deaths occurred in low-income countries.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

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