Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950

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Oxford University Press, Nov 10, 1988 - History - 295 pages
Based on personal accounts by birthing women and their medical attendants, Brought to Bed reveals how childbirth has changed from colonial times to the present. Judith Walzer Leavitt's study focuses on the traditional woman-centered home-birthing practices, their replacement by male doctors, and the movement from the home to the hospital. She explains that childbearing women and their physicians gradually changed birth places because they believed the increased medicalization would make giving birth safer and more comfortable. Ironically, because of infection, infant and maternal mortality did not immediately decline. She concludes that birthing women held considerable power in determining labor and delivery events as long as childbirth remained in the home. The move to the hospital in the twentieth century gave the medical profession the upper hand. Leavitt also discusses recent events in American obstetrics that illustrate how women have attempted to retrieve some of the traditional women--and family--centered aspects of childbirth.
 

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Brought to bed: childbearing in America, 1750 to 1950

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Two hundred years ago, childbirth in America was a dangerous event, but women controlled its setting. By 1950, childbirth had become less dangerous, but women had surrendered control of the experience ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
Childbirth and Womens Lives in America
13
The Impact of Physician Obstetrics
36
Differences in Womens Childbirth Experiences
64
The Role of Gender in the Birthing Room
87
Pain Relief in Obstetrics
116
Meddlesome Midwifery and Scrupulous Cleanliness
142
Birth Moves to the Hospital
171
8 DecisionMaking and the Process of Change
196
Epilogue
213
Notes
219
Chronology of Events in Childbirth History
263
Glossary of Medical Terms
271
Index
277
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About the author (1988)

Judith Walzer Leavitt is Professor of History of Medicine and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of The Healthiest City and editor of Women and Health in America and Sickness and Health in America.

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