Medicalising childbirth : a historical contextualisation of childbirth in early modern Britain, depicting the rise of male involvement in childbirth and its resulting effect on the decline of the traditional female midwives
Date of Issue2017-03-27
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Midwifery is an ancient profession that boasts the proud tradition of providing care for women and babies throughout the period of a woman's pregnancy and during childbirth. Contextualising this study against the historical background of Britain, we observed that before the seventeenth century, women, on the whole, were the only gender present at deliveries and were principal figures in managing childbirth. However, by the end of the eighteenth century, Britain witnessed an increasing professional domination of men over childbirth. Journeying across two centuries (17th-18th C.), this paper chronicles how the changing societal context of each period resulted in the varying ways men gradually intercepted and attached their significance to the field of midwifery. With the Scientific Revolution and patriarchal society characterising the early seventeenth century, this paper argues that the decline of traditional female midwives by the end of the 18th century, resulted from men’s generating interest in science, hence, their attempts to elevate its status through medicalising childbirth and pathologising it whenever birth complications arose. Structuring this paper according to the medical practices—Onset, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention—this paper attempts to demonstrated the medicalisation of childbirth. However, due to the numerous obstacles women faced living in a patriarchal society, they were subsequently relinquished from their positions of authority in the field of midwifery where they once dominated.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University