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Sidney Q. Cohlan (1915-1999)
Sidney Q. Cohlan studied birth defects in the US during the twentieth century. Cohlan helped to discover that if a pregnant woman ate too much vitamin A her fetus faced a higher than normal risk of teratogenic effects, such as cleft palate. A teratogen is a substance that causes malformation of a developing organism. Cohlan also identified the teratogenic effects of several other substances including a lack of normal magnesium and prenatal exposure to the antibiotic tetracycline.
“Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy” (1948), by Olive Watkins Smith
In 1948, Olive Watkins Smith published 'Diethylstilbestrol in the Prevention and Treatment of Complications of Pregnancy' in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In 632 women treated with diethylstilbestrol, Smith demonstrated that the drug stimulated the production of progesterone, a hormone that regulates the uterine condition during pregnancy.
Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure on Central Nervous System Development
Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is part of this group and was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities and defects of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is particularly vulnerable to the effects of ethanol during prenatal development.
Subject: Disorders, Reproduction
The Miracle of Life (1983), by NOVA
The most-watched NOVA documentary ever made and a revolution in the understanding of human development, The Miracle of Life (abbreviated Life) employs the most current developments in endoscopic and microscopic technology to capture the intricacies of human development. Narrated by Anita Sangiolo and vividly illustrating the most minute and hard-to-reach parts and processes of living systems, this film truly flexes the muscles of the newest photographic technology of its time, with esteemed photographer Lennart Nilsson behind the camera.
Subject: Outreach, Reproduction
United States v. University Hospital (1984)
The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' 1984 decision United States v. University Hospital, State University Hospital of New York at Stony Brook set a significant precedent for affirming parental privilege to make medical decisions for handicapped newborns, while limiting the ability of the federal government to intervene. The ruling stemmed from the 1983 case involving an infant born with severe physical and mental congenital defects; the infant was only identified as Baby Jane Doe.
Subject: Legal, Reproduction
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.
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.
“Delayed Breastfeeding Initiation Increases Risk of Neonatal Mortality” (2006), by Karen Edmond Charles Zandoh, Maria Quigley, Seeba Amenga-Etego, Seth Oqusi-Agyei, and Betty Kirkwood
In March 2006, scientists from Ghana and the UK Karen Edmond, Charles Zandoh, Maria Quigley, Seeba Amenga-Etego, Seth Oqusi-Agyei, and Betty Kirkwood published their findings that early, consistent breastfeeding habits for mothers in Ghana resulted in better survival outcomes for their infants. The authors communicated those results in the paper “Delayed Breastfeeding Initiation Increases Risk of Neonatal Mortality,” or “Delayed Breastfeeding,” published in The American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Maternal Stress Responses and Anxiety During Pregnancy: Effects on Fetal Heart Rate” (2000), by Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado
In 2000, Catherine Monk, William Fifer, Michael Myers, Richard Sloan, Leslie Trien, and Alicia Hurtado published “Maternal stress responses and anxiety during pregnancy: Effects on fetal heart rate,” in which the authors conducted a study on how pregnant women’s stress and anxiety affects the health of their fetuses. Previous studies had shown that stress and anxiety during pregnancy could cause fetal abnormalities.
Subject: Publications, Disorders
David Reimer and John Money Gender Reassignment Controversy: The John/Joan Case
In the mid-1960s, psychologist John Money encouraged the gender reassignment of David Reimer, who was born a biological male but suffered irreparable damage to his penis as an infant. Born in 1965 as Bruce Reimer, his penis was irreparably damaged during infancy due to a failed circumcision. After encouragement from Money, Reimer’s parents decided to raise Reimer as a girl. Reimer underwent surgery as an infant to construct rudimentary female genitals, and was given female hormones during puberty.
First American Birth Control Clinic (The Brownsville Clinic), 1916
On 16 October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened one of the first birth control clinics in the United States in Brooklyn, New York, which some have called the Brownsville Clinic. Located at 46 Amboy Street, the clinic was a place where Sanger and her staff verbally communicated with women seeking information about birth control. During the early 1900s, both birth control and abortion were illegal in the US, and publication or circulation of information on both topics was deemed obscene and illegal by the federal Comstock Act.
Impact of Air Pollution on Reproductive Health” (1999), by Radim Srám
In 1999, researcher Radim Srám, sometimes spelled Radim Šrám, published his article “Impact of Air Pollution on Reproductive Health” in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. In the article, Srám analyzes the effects of exposure to air pollution, which can include harmful chemicals, on fetal growth and development. Srám discusses how industrialized countries such as the US and China have led to an increase in the global amount of respirable air pollutants.
James Edgar Till (1931– )
James Edgar Till is a biophysicist known for establishing the existence of stem cells along with Ernest McCulloch in 1963. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can shift, or differentiate, into specialized types of cells and serve as a repair system in the body by dividing indefinitely to replenish other cells. Till’s work with stem cells in bone marrow, which produces the body’s blood cells, helped form the field of modern hematology, a medical discipline that focuses on diseases related to the blood.
Subject: People, Experiments, Technologies
Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia (1972)
In Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia (1972), the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that students with disabilities are entitled to an education, and that education cannot be denied based on the accommodations’ additional cost to the school. Mills was a class action lawsuit brought to the court on behalf of seven children denied public education by the District of Columbia School District because of their disabilities and the cost of accommodations the school would incur to educate them.
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
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.
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.
Sex Determination in Humans
In humans, sex determination is the process that determines the biological sex of an offspring and, as a result, the sexual characteristics that they will develop. Humans typically develop as either male or female, primarily depending on the combination of sex chromosomes that they inherit from their parents. The human sex chromosomes, called X and Y, are structures in human cells made up of tightly bound deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, and proteins.
Stanley Alan Plotkin's Development of a Rubella Vaccine (1969)
In the US during the late 1960s, Stanley Alan Plotkin, John D. Farquhar, Michael Katz, and Fritz Buser isolated a strain of the infectious disease rubella and developed a rubella vaccine with a weakened, or attenuated, version of the virus strain. Rubella, also called German measles, is a highly contagious disease caused by the rubella virus that generally causes mild rashes and fever. However, in pregnant women, rubella infections can lead to developmental defects in their fetuses.
Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), by Emma Duke
The book Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, PA., Based on Births in One Calendar Year (1915), written by Emma Duke, detailed one of the first infant mortality field studies conducted by the US Children's Bureau. In the study, Duke and her colleagues collected information about over one thousand infants in the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. They used that information, along with interviews conducted with the families of the infants, to identify factors that affected infant mortality rates in the community.
Subject: Experiments, Publications
Marshall Henry Klaus (1927–2017)
Marshall Henry Klaus was a scientist and pediatrician who studied maternal-infant bonding in the twentieth century in the United States. Maternal-infant bonding is the psychological and chemical attachment between mother and infant. Klaus cofounded DONA International, an organization that trains birthing aides, called doulas, to provide physical and emotional support to laboring mothers. He also studied the differences between the layouts and quality of care provided in nurseries and birthing centers in different countries and compared them to those found in the United States.
“Prenatal Stress, Glucocorticoids and the Programming of the Brain” (2001), by Leonie Welberg and Jonathan Seckl
In 2001, researchers Leonie Welberg and Jonathan Seckl published the literature review “Prenatal Stress, Glucocorticoids, and the Programming of the Brain,” in which they report on the effects of prenatal stress on the development of the fetal brain. The fetus experiences prenatal stress while in the womb, or in utero. In discussing the effects of prenatal stress, the authors describe prenatal programming, which is when early environmental experiences permanently alter biological structure and function throughout life.
Subject: Publications, Theories
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett (1872-1947)
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services.
Subject: People, Reproduction
Pearl Luella Kendrick (1890–1980)
Pearl Luella Kendrick researched prevention for pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the mid-1900s. Pertussis is a respiratory disease that mainly affects infants and young children. During the 1920s, pertussis was responsible for more deaths in children in the United States than any other disease. In the 1930s, Kendrick created one of the first pertussis vaccines that underwent large-scale clinical trials.
Subject: People, Publications, Processes
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson (1915–2006)
Jane Elizabeth Hodgson was a physician who advocated for abortion rights in the twentieth century in the United States. In November of 1970, Hodgson became the first physician in the U.S. to be convicted of performing an illegal abortion in a hospital. Hodgson deliberately performed the abortion to challenge the Minnesota State Statute 617.18, which prohibited non-therapeutic abortions. Following the legalization of abortion in the US Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), Hodgson focused on promoting accessible abortion, obstetric, and gynecological care throughout Minnesota.