Gordon Watkins Douglas researched cervical cancer, breach delivery, and treatment of high blood pressure during pregnancy in the US during the twentieth century. He worked primarily at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, New York. While at Bellevue, he worked with William E. Studdiford to develop treatments for women who contracted infections as a result of illegal abortions performed throughout the US in unsterile environments. Douglas also established the first contraception and pregnancy termination clinic at Bellevue Hospital shortly after the legalization of abortion as a result of the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, Douglas showed that fetal and maternal cells exchange between the pregnant woman and fetus during pregnancy, which led to the later development of non-invasive prenatal testing in the early twenty-first century.

Leon Chesley studied hypertension, or high blood pressure, in pregnant women during the mid-twentieth century. Chesley studied preeclampsia and eclampsia, two hypertensive disorders found in approximately five percent of all US pregnancies. In New Jersey and New York, Chesley devoted over forty years to researching preeclampsia and eclampsia. Chesley conducted several long-term studies using the same group of women beginning from their pregnancies. Chesley’s multi-decade research led to more accurate diagnosis of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women and significantly reduced the mortality of pregnant women due to hypertensive diseases.

In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers Leon Chesley, John Annitto, and Robert Cosgrove investigated the possible familial factor for the conditions of preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnant women. Preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are related to high blood pressure, have unknown causes and affect at least five percent of all pregnancies. The researchers, who worked at Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey, used hospital patient records to find and reexamine women who had eclampsia at the hospital, as well as their daughters, sisters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters. Chesley and colleagues found that the daughters and granddaughters of eclamptic women were more likely than the female offspring of non-eclamptic women to have preeclampsia and eclampsia in their own pregnancies, and especially in their first pregnancies. The study provided evidence that the disorders are inherited, enabling physicians to better monitor pregnancies in women who have a known family history for preeclampsia and eclampsia.

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. In Conservatism in Obstetrics, Cragin described obstetric techniques to maintain healthy births for women and fetuses. Cragin's article outlined the best practices for obstetricians in the early twentieth century, and publicized the claim that if a woman delivers a newborn via cesarean section, she should deliver any future newborn via the same method, a theory that persisted throughout the century.

Leon Chesley published Hypertensive Disorders in Pregnancy in 1978 to outline major and common complications that occur during pregnancy and manifest in abnormally high blood pressures in pregnant women. The book was published by Appleton-Century-Crofts in New York, New York. Chesley compiled his book as a tool for practicing obstetricians and teachers. The book focuses on preeclampsia and eclampsia, but it also describes other common and rare hypertensive diseases and disorders of pregnancy and discusses their histories, diagnoses, management plans, pathologies, and immediate and remote prognoses for mothers and fetuses. Doctors used the book and all subsequent editions to help diagnose and manage complications during pregnancy and to avoid deaths for pregnant women and fetuses.

Subscribe to Preeclampsia