Pregnancy / Childbirth

The history of midwives, or the controversy around childbirth a few centuries ago


From the dawn of time, women supported each other during childbirth. More experienced ones not only upheld future mothers, but also made sure that the birth of a new member of the community went without complications. Midwives, because of them, have come a long way before becoming recognized representatives of one of the medical professions.
He collected and wrote testimonies of experienced former midwives in 100 A.D. Greek Soranus. His work, being a textbook for midwives, is considered an excellent source of contemporary knowledge in the field ancient gynecology. In the 6th century BC the well-known doctor Muscio, living in Ravenna, undertook to translate the book of the expert on female anatomy into Latin. It was such an inept translation that it not only did not meet with the recognition of women trying to admit newborns, but above all it contained a lot of absurd errors, resulting from misinterpretation. One of them is the statement that female uterus is an animal that moves inside each representative of the beautiful sex.

Double role

Midwives were known not only for receiving births, but also could save unwanted babiesthat parents or someone close to them sentenced to death. In 802 e.e. there was a view among Germanic peoples that killing newborns is not a vice that deserves to be punished. Friesians were famous for killing worthless girls in their opinion, thus controlling the growth of their citizens. One of the most famous stories is the fact-based tale of tiny Liudger. Her mother, giving birth to another girl, risked her mother-in-law. A desiring male granddaughter, ensuring the continuity of the descendant's family, the woman hired people to kill the newborn. However, the midwife who assisted in giving birth saved the girl by filling her with honey. Gentiles believed that if a new family member was fed earthly food, he could not be deprived of his life.

Trotuladesalerno

Women know better

At the end of the 11th century, it enjoyed extraordinary popularity and recognition medical school in Salerno, wherein girls could study. Adepts of this institution were successful in gynecology, cosmetics, ophthalmology, they learned the secrets of skin diseases. Trotula, Abella, Sigelgaita, and Constazia Calenda are women who made their mark on the history of that period. The most famous of them is Trotula, the author of the book dealing with obstetrics - "On the suffering of a woman before and during delivery". An expert on women's ailments, she studied the secrets of menstruation and uterine diseases. It is worth emphasizing that it is her she was the first to raise the issue of protecting the perineum during childbirth. In addition, issues related to the care of newborns and childhood diseases, which she raised in her scientific dissertations, were at her heart.

We look at hands during childbirth

In the fifteenth century, statutes were adopted, under which the councils of individual cities could control midwives. Every woman who wanted to act as a midwife had to take an official oath, in which she declared total compliance with the statute, as well as pass a theoretical exam before the city doctor. In addition, the law forbade women associating to receive births. Local politicians also controlled the methods that midwives used. It was also ensured that a specialist was present at the birth of the child she did not drink alcohol and was controlled by a respected woman. Emphasis was also placed on midwives looking after pregnant women regardless of their social status or wealth. In 1483 Widman from Strasbourg raised the issue of dismissive attitude to the poor giving birth. Not only that, he also suspected them of murdering newborns.

Dark forbidden knowledge

1520 he surprised people with regulations adopted in European pharmacies. In their content they were found bans on selling drugs that caused miscarriage. Midwives that they knew ways to prevent pregnancy and performing abortions have been accused of acting to the detriment of society. Dignitaries who took care of population growth took care of appropriate legal regulations that were to prevent birth control. Citizens were encouraged to expand their families, procreation was the main goal of marriages. To discourage people from evading the obligation to beget children, taxes were imposed on them, e.g. Midwives have again become the object of attacks. Women who knew the secrets of herbal medicine were accused of practicing magic and of contact with Satan. They were charged with casting spellsthat led men to infertility. Especially punished were those that propagated knowledge about conscious sex life. If one of the midwives shared her contraceptive knowledge, she would meet her harsh punishment. Losing the culprit was to be a warning to other midwives and people who would like to use their knowledge.

Our countrymen did not receive the first textbook on obstetrics of the native author until 1521. It was the Treaty "On childbirth."

Life or death?

Under the first universal penal code, which was adopted in 1532. in the Reichstag in Regensburg, midwives were burdened reporting functionwho were to inform the authorities about women who had killed their unborn or just born child. The ban on the use of contraceptives resulted increase in neonatal deaths. Women who could not decide on matters related to their motherhood they murdered their children. Even if the culprit managed to hide her pregnancy and childbirth, she could be convicted of infanticide, publicly proving her crimes by exposing the leaking milk from her breast. It was to prove that the woman had recently become a mother.

Bloody age

Less than 20 years later, the German Inquisitors Jakub Springer and Henryk Institons became the "Hammer of the Witches", which in an iron age claimed about 300,000 victims. They published a book for judges and executioners, which contained information on witch detection and handling. Again, midwives and herbalists were in the crosshairs. Their knowledge became a curse. At that time, you could easily lose your life. Burning piles, rivers full of bodies were proof that even a triviality could have contributed to the cry women called a witch and putting her to violate the divine and social order.

Seiegemundin

Giving birth (un) humanly

In 1552 The church has made every effort to be able to control midwives' activities. The midwifery regulations were adopted, which deprived women of the right to give birth in favorable conditions. Methods used so far, which pain relievers were completely banned. Any drinks or ointments were illegal. The mothers had to humbly endure the hardships of giving birth to a child, and the only means that would bring them relief were quoting Bible verses by midwives. In addition, women receiving childbirth had the duty to baptize their child if they suspected that it might die in a short time. If this birthing life was threatened, the midwife had to fulfill the role of a priest and hear her confession. A new, strong social group, such as doctors, tried to get rid of the competition that midwives were for them. Not only did they surpass their educated "colleagues" with many years of experience, but above all with the practice and respect of patients.

Gynecological fight of sexes

Maria Luiza Bourgeois went down in history as a midwife who in 1626. published dissertation on obstetrics. She was interested in pregnancy anomalies. She examined dead fetuses, wrote about miscarriages, looked for causes of infertility. She also wrote about the birth of distorted children who were called monsters. Thanks to this French midwife, women's diseases became the subject of research in contemporary medicine. After passing the guild exam, she gained fame and a rich clientele. The skills of the woman were appreciated by the monarch's family. In 1601 she became the official midwife of Queen Marie de Medici and welcomed her seven children to the world. It is estimated that Maria Luiza has received over 2,000 births. She emphasized hygiene during the birth of the child and as the first to describe bearing separation process.

In 1671 a textbook on the basics of modern obstetrics was published in England, by Jane Sharp.

Men engaged in surgery in 1687. they tried to defame midwives by taking their patients away. Elizabeth Cellier, an Englishwoman, started to fight them. She came out with an initiative to make her home country create hospitalsin which nurses would receive education, single women and their illegitimate children would be cared for. Despite convincing evidence and valid arguments, Cellier's actions were not met with male approval.

About tragic consequences pelvic births she wrote in 1688. court midwife of the Brandenburg princes, Justine Siegemundin. Her book contained important details that had been overlooked so far. She made her work more attractive with hand-made engravings that illustrated ways of twisting a newborn child to facilitate his birth. Justine gained fame and admiration thanks to many years of work with her births. A woman who did not receive any studies, independently acquired the knowledge necessary for her work. She also enjoyed the recognition of the English monarch and German princesses. Encouraged by their compliments, she decided to publish her "research".

Childbirth by a male specialist

Midwifery in the second half of the 18th century in our western neighbors was dominated by representatives of the ugly sex. Established in 1751, they helped them succeed. German maternity clinic in Göttingen. In distant England and France, midwives were replaced a hundred years ago by men. Georg Roeder in charge of the clinic wanted to educate staff that would bring pride to the university. Every woman giving birth, regardless of social status or race, was given free help. Benjamin Osiander, who took the post of director of the institution in 1792, perfected the ones used during childbirths tongs, thanks to which the deaths of children decreased. Unfortunately, the solutions in the clinic were more dangerous than home births, which were experienced by many more mothers. It is important that the mentioned tool could not be used by the midwife. In addition, the doctor in charge of the clinic developed a new version of the movable delivery chair constructed by Georg Wilhelm Stein. Dr. Osiander suggested that women give birth fully dressed in an upright position.

The idea of ​​using medical aids met with disapproval of midwives who not only argued with surgeons but ridiculed their male competitors.

Benjamin Osiander's proposal

Medical examination of conscience

In North America, the first woman with a PhD title was Elizabeth Blackwell. She made every effort to ensure that the first women's and children's hospital in New York received doctors and honored their diplomas. She was famous for saying "Prevention is better than therapy".

In May 1871. Article 218 of the Criminal Code of the North German Union curtailed the actions of "angel manufacturers". Quacks, engaged in spending fetuses, ignoring the threatening them five years in prison, helped pregnant women get rid of unwanted pregnancy. Also doctors and women serving labor they were aborting not only in the event of a threat to the mother's life, but also when wealthy patients paid them the right amount.

At the end of the first half of the 19th century sight glasses are used in obstetrics and gynecologythat became independent learning. During childbirth, chloroform was used to alleviate the suffering woman. Caesarean sections began to be a widespread way of facilitating the child's birth.

In 1921 American Margaret Sanger founded the Birth Control League. This midwife has witnessed many deaths for women who underwent illegal abortions. Despite the authorities' opposition, she propagated contraception and entered the pages of history as the author of the statement "birth control".

Occupation or mission?

Today midwives have been replaced by midwives, among whom there are also gentlemen. Persons practicing this profession can work as part of independent practice or work full-time. Only a midwife who has the appropriate qualifications and is listed as a midwife may use this title. Unlawful use of the title of profession is unlawful and may result in a fine.