A Social History of Maternity Care

Tania McIntosh

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authored


Throughout the century the experience of maternity seemed never to be far from the minds not just of women having babies, or indeed of their doctors and midwives, but also of health officials, journalists, statisticians, sociologists and policy makers. It is a truism to say that pregnancy and birth are at the same time intensely private and uniquely public, but in this period they stepped out of the shadows and became central to social debate as well as being influenced by it. This book puts the history of maternity in England into its wider social context. Chronological chapters consider the significance of the regulation and training of midwives and doctors, and explore important aspects of maternity care including efforts to tackle maternal deaths, the move of birth from home to hospital, and the rise of consumer groups. Using oral histories and women’s memoirs the book considers what it was like to have a baby or to work as a midwife across the century, highlighting areas of change and of continuity. The book argues that women were not simply passive victims of the move to hospital births or high technology care but always had a choice about their pregnancy and birth. Traditional histories which highlight rivalries between midwives and doctors underplay the extent to which both groups had common ground. Midwives and obstetricians as occupational groups both reinvented themselves across the period in an attempt to keep pace with the demands of society and of women. Despite this no one group managed truly to control childbirth. This book will be of use to anyone researching the history of midwifery, maternity or women’s history. It will also be of interest to midwives, whether studying or practising, and to mothers and doctors.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages190
ISBN (Print)9780415561631
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2012


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