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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

Joseph Bolivar DeLee (1869–1942)

Joseph Bolivar DeLee was an obstetrician in the US between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who advocated for the specialized teaching of medical students in the field of obstetrics to address problems occurring during pregnancy. He claimed obstetricians maintained a wider skillset than midwives, and founded the Chicago Lying-In Hospital to provide affordable obstetric care to women in Chicago, Illinois.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

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

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

Thesis: Informed Consent Laws for Abortion: What Do Women Have a "Right to Know?

The objective of this project was to determine the importance of informed consent laws to achieving the larger goal of dismantling the right to abortion. I found that informed consent counseling materials in most states contain a full timeline of fetal development, along with information about the risks of abortion, the risks of childbirth, and alternatives to abortion. In addition, informed consent laws for abortion are based on model legislation called the “Women’s Right to Know Act” developed by Americans United for Life (AUL).

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Legal, Ethics

"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

Dana Louise Raphael (1926–2016)

Dana Louise Raphael was an anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate in the US during the twentieth century. After she was unable to breastfeed her own infant, Raphael began to research why breastfeeding was more common in other cultures than in the US. As part of that research, Raphael cofounded the Human Lactation Center, where she studied the breastfeeding habits of mothers around the world. Through that research, she coordinated with formula manufacturers to educate women on the benefits of breastfeeding and formula supplementation to reduce infant mortality in developing nations.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Spiritual Midwifery” (2003), by Ina May Gaskin

In 1976, midwife Ina May Gaskin published Spiritual Midwifery, with other editions published in 1980, 1990, and 2003. Spiritual Midwifery is a book about pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, or the time period after birth. During the 1970s, it was common for women to receive an epidural, a medication that reduces pain during labor, and for physicians to monitor a fetus’s heartbeat while separating women from their infants after birth. However, according to Gaskin, some women wanted to give birth outside of the hospital without medical interventions.

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Horatio Robinson Storer (1830–1922)

Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Religion

Barbara Seaman (1935–2008)

Barbara Seaman was a writer, investigator, and advocate for female healthcare rights during the twentieth century in the United States. Seaman’s work addressed the gendered prejudice she observed in the US healthcare system and argued that women of the 1960s lacked the proper tools to make informed decisions about pregnancy care, breastfeeding, childbirth, and contraception. Seaman wrote the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill in 1969 to expose the dangers in prescribing and consuming high doses of estrogen in the form of birth control.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

“Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV...” (2018), by Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe

In 2018, researchers Elie Nkwabong, Romuald Meboulou Nguel, Nelly Kamgaing, and Anne Sylvie Keddi Jippe published, “Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices of Health Personnel of Maternities in the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in a sub-Saharan African Region with High Transmission Rate: Some Solutions Proposed,” in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction, Disorders

A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery, (1752-1764) by William Smellie

A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is a three volume collection of patient accounts that William Smellie published from 1752 to 1764. Smellie, a physician and instructor in obstetrics in Great Britain, published these compilations to share his expertise in reproductive medicine, while also providing his students and colleagues with a source of reference in their own medical practices. Smellie wrote these books to shift obstetrics from a discipline practiced by midwives with limited medical training to one practiced in a medical context by physicians.

Format: Articles

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia (1921–1996)

Roberto Caldeyro-Barcia studied fetal health in Uruguay during the second half of the twentieth century. Caldeyro-Barcia developed Montevideo units, which are used to quantify intrauterine pressure, or the force of contractions during labor. Intrauterine pressure is a useful measure of the progression of labor and the health of a fetus.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

Adolescent Family Life Act (1981)

The 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, is a US federal law that provides federal funding to public and nonprofit private organizations to counsel adolescents to abstain from sex until marriage. AFLA was included under the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, which the US Congress signed into law that same year. Through the AFLA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, funded a variety of sex education programs for adolescents to address the social and economic ramifications associated with pregnancy and childbirth among unmarried adolescents.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach, Ethics, Reproduction

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Various techniques constitute assisted reproduction, one of which is gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT). The first example of GIFT involved primates during the 1970s; however, the technology was unsuccessful until 1984 when an effective GIFT method was invented by Ricardo Asch at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center and the procedure resulted in the first human pregnancy. The GIFT technique was created in hopes of generating an artificial insemination process that mimicked the physiological sequences of normal conception.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery (1752-1764), by William Smellie

A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is a three volume collection of patient accounts that William Smellie published from 1752 to 1764. Smellie, a physician and instructor in obstetrics in Great Britain, published these compilations to share his expertise in reproductive medicine, while also providing his students and colleagues with a source of reference in their own medical practices. Smellie wrote these books to shift obstetrics from a discipline practiced by midwives with limited medical training to one practiced in a medical context by physicians.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

“Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review” (2007), by Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans and Lori Ross

In the 2007 paper “Traditional postpartum practices and rituals: a qualitative systematic review,” Toronto-based researchers showed that women from different cultures around the world follow similar postpartum practices after giving birth. At the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada, Cindy-Lee Dennis, Kenneth Fung, Sophie Grigoriadis, Gail Erlick Robinson, Sarah Romans, and Lori Ross examined fifty-one studies from over twenty countries that focused on traditional postpartum practices.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973), by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

Our Bodies, Ourselves, a succession to a pamphlet of resources pulled from co-ops of women in and around Boston, Massachusetts was published in New York in 1973 by Simon and Schuster. Retitled from the original Women and Their Bodies, Our Bodies, Ourselves was an effort by a group of educated, middle class women to reinforce women's ownership of their bodies. There have been eight editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as sequels such as Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction

“Women’s Right to Know” Informed Consent Informational Materials

As of 2021, twenty-eight US states have informed consent laws for abortion, which is a medical procedure to terminate pregnancy, often called Women’s Right to Know laws. Those laws often require the state government to develop informational materials that healthcare providers must give to women before an abortion. Informational materials generally include information about the process of fetal development, accompanied by illustrations or pictures, risks and effects of abortion, and alternatives to abortion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal

“Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Healthcare” (2014), by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

In 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released a co-authored report titled “Reproductive Injustice: Racial and Gender Discrimination in U.S. Healthcare,” hereafter “Reproductive Injustice.” In “Reproductive Injustice,” the organizations evaluate trends in the US federal system concerning racial and gender discrimination in sexual and reproductive healthcare.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Organizations, Outreach, Legal

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)

Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering, or MAGE, is a genome editing technique that enables scientists to quickly edit an organism’s DNA to produce multiple changes across the genome. In 2009, two genetic researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Harris Wang and George Church, developed the technology during a time when researchers could only edit one site in an organism’s genome at a time.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Processes