Day 8: Historical & contemporary comments by physicians about midwives ~ 1820 to 2014

by faithgibson on April 8, 2016

in Contemporary Childbirth Politics, Historical Childbirth Politics 1820-1980

Day 8 ~ 1917 to 1926



1917 Dr. Levy, MD

These figures [refers to statistics published in 1931 by Dr. Van Ingen and Dr. Josephine Baker for NYC] to certainly refute the charge of high mortality among the infants whose mothers are attended by midwives, and instead present the unexpected problem of explaining the fact that the maternal and infant mortality for the cases attended by midwives is lower than those attended by physicians and hospitals.[1917-B; p. 44] 

1921 ~ Dr. Levy examined birth-related mortality in Newark, NJ and found a similar relationship to that of Van Ingen’s survey of Manhattan (a 1913 entry above).

Birth Attendant:




Birth percentage




Puerperal Deaths:




Neonatal MR/1000




1922 ~ Dr. Ziegler, obstetrician 

The doctor must be enabled to get his money from small fees received from a much larger number of patients cared for under time-saving and strength-conserving conditions; he must do his work at the minimum expense to himself, and he must not be asked to do any work for which he is not paid the stipulated fee.

In this plan the work of the doctors would be limited to the delivery of patients [i.e., as a surgical procedure that can ONLY be performed by physician-surgeons]to consulting with the nurses, and to the making of complete physical and obstetrical examinations …

This means … the doctors must be relieved of all work that can be done by others —… nurses, social workers, and midwives.” 

Pset1925_NurseMomLith Hosp_NatBirth1960_cropped-1-263x300

The nurses should be trained to do all the antepartum and postpartum work, from both the doctors’ and nurses’ standpoint,with the doctors always available as consultants when things go wrong

..midwives should be trained to act as assistant-attendants …conducting the labor during the waiting period or until the doctor arrives, and assisting him during the delivery. [1922-A, p. 413]

1923 ~ Dr. Ziegler, MD

As to maternal mortality, …during 1913 about 16,000 women died..; in 1918, about 23,000…and with the 15% increase estimated by [Dr.] Bolt, the number during 1921 will exceed 26,000.

1924 ~ Dr. Levy, MD 

….. the stationary or increasing mortality in this country associated with childbirth and the newborn is not the result of midwifery practice, and therefore, their elimination will not reduce these mortality rates“, [1924-A, p. 822; Rebuttal by Dr. Levy to published remarks by Dr. Rucker, MD,] 

1924 ~ The Expectant Mother ~ The Mother and Her Child’; Drs. William S. & Lena K. Sadler, M.D; section on childbirth, page 8  ~ emphasis added   

“Under no circumstances should a midwife be engaged. Any reputable physician or … intelligent minister will advise that. Let your choice be either the hospital or the home; but always engage a physician, never a midwife.”

1925 ~ Dr Hardin, MD

It should be mentioned however that the US had the worst maternal-infant mortality of any country in the developed world, except for Brazil. 1921 the maternal death rate for our country was higher than that of every foreign country for which we have statistics, except that of Belgium and Chile.”

… according to [Dr.] Howard maternal mortality in the [US], when compared with certain other countries, notably England, Wales and Sweden is appallingly high and probably unequaled in modern times in any civilized country.

Twenty-five thousand women die in the United States every year from direct and indirect effects of pregnancy and labor

… 3 to 5% of all children die during delivery and thousands of them are crippled. [1925-A p. 347 & 350]

1926 ~ Dr. Woodbury

When the Massachusetts Supreme Court (Hanna Porn v. Commonwealth) declared midwifery to be an illegal practice of medicine in 1907, the state’s maternal mortality was 4.7 per 1000 live birth.

By 1913 it had risen to 5.6 and by 1920 it was up to 7.4

Day 9 ~ 1931 to 1934

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