Day 7: Historical & contemporary comments by physicians about midwives ~ 1820 to 2014

by faithgibson on April 7, 2016

in Contemporary Childbirth Politics, Historical Childbirth Politics 1820-1980

A 30-day series of quotes spanning two hundred years ~ click here to begin with Day 1

You can also read the entire series as a single post

Day 7 ~ 1915 ~ Dr. DeLee’s perspective on midwives!

1915 ~ Dr. P.W. van Peyma, Buffalo, NY

The essential difference between a midwife and a physician is that [physicians] are free to hasten delivery by means of forceps, version, etc. This, in my experience, results in more serious consequences than any shortcomings of midwives. 

Time is an element of first importance in labor, and the midwife is more inclined to give this than is the average physician.  The present wave of operative interference is disastrous. … The situation would not be improved by turning [women who use midwives] into the hands of such medical men…

Obstetric training in the medical colleges is recognized as inadequate, [yet] there is no voice raised to eliminate the doctor from the practice of midwifery. Dr. Hirst is at present circularizing the State Board of Health to establish a standard for obstetrical experience for [physician] candidates for licensure, and … hesuggests the personal delivery of 6 women. In NYC, the midwife is required to have the personal care of 20 women before a permit is granted to her. 

1915 ~ Dr Edgar, MD 

Of the 3 professions—namely, the physician, the trained nurse and the midwife, there should be no attempt to perpetuate the … [midwife], as a separate profession. The midwife should never be regarded as a practitioner, since her only legitimate functions are those of a nurse …. [1915-A; p. 104]

Nurse positioning the mother's legs so obstetrician can perform a vaginal exam

1915Dr. joseph DeLee, MD, obstetrician, founder of the Chicago Lying-in Hospital and Chicago Maternity Center for poor women, author of the “The Principles of Obstetrics”; identified by historicals as one of the two Titans and founding fathers of modern American obstetrics [Dr JW Williams being the other famous’Titian’]

Obstetrics is held in disdain by the [medical] profession and the public.  The public reasons correctly. If an uneducated women of the lowest class may [provide maternity care], is instructed by doctors and licensed by the State, [attending a birth] certainly must require very little knowledge and skill — surely it cannot belong the science and art of medicine[1915-C, p.117]

1915 ~ Dr. DeLee,The Teaching of Obstetrics“, American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecologists

Cover story on Dr DeLee, May 1935

The midwife has long been a drag on the progress of the science and art of obstetrics. Her existence stunts the one and degrades the other. For many centuries she perverted obstetrics from obtaining any standing at all among the science of medicine.

The midwife is a relic of barbarism.In civilized countries the midwife is wrong, has always been wrong. The greatest bar to human progress has been compromise, and the midwife demands a compromise between right and wrong.   All admit that the midwife is wrong. [TASPIM- 1915-C; .p. 114]

If the profession would realize that parturition [childbirth], viewed with modern eyes, is no longer a normal function, but that it has imposing pathologic dignity, the midwife would be impossible of mention.”[1915-C; p.117] 

Day 8 ~ 1917 to 1926


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