Understand the Recent History of Midwifery
So We Can Redream the Future
Maternity care in the today’s world is in a very sad state. There’s lack of understanding of how birth works even among”birth professionals” (including, sadly, not only doctors, but some midwives as well), there’s widespread fear of birth among women and their families, an epidemic of obstetric violence, persecution of midwives…
How did we end up in this mess? Finding an answer to this question is a first step in finding the way out of it. For this purpose, we invite you on a journey through time…
On this journey, we’ll trace how birth changed from “social birth” in the Colonial period of the American history to a birthing woman being “alone among strangers” in a hospital. We’ll see how the doctors took birth away from women and midwives – initially, by attending upper-class women in late 18th century, and very gradually taking over ALL birth by mid-20th century. We will meet heroes: Anne Hutchinson in the 17th century, Hanna Porn in early 20th, and Raven Lang in 1970s, as well as some villains, including Dr. DeLee, who believed that birth was a pathology, and taught doctors to “rescue” birthing women by drugs, routine episiotomy and forceps.
We’ll learn how of the Organized Medicine and the State succeeded in almost complete elimination of the midwives, using such means as slander against midwives and mandatory licensing. We will learn how in the 70’s, disillusioned with hospital birth, some women reclaimed birth and brought it back home, re-learning ancient midwifery skills in the process. We’ll see the reaction the Organized Medicine and the State, and the attempts to co-opt midwifery via licensing.
It is our hope that, by the end of the course, the students will be able to re-dream midwifery, and to find a way out of the current mess.
More specifically this class explores the following topics:
– the historical roots of women helping women in birth
– how doctors took over birth in the US
– the licensing of doctors and midwives
– how birth moved to the hospital
– the systematic elimination of midwives
– licensing as a means to eliminating autonomous midwifery
– the midwifery renaissance in the US
– where we are now
This was one of my favorite courses. I was eager to mop up all of the information in the lectures and I loved the readings. I continue to think about and share the information I learned through this course.
It was very confirming to see that even though each of us is came in with a different set of life experiences and direct experience with licensing, we all can appreciate that ultimately we need autonomy, both as midwives and as birthing families. This was a class where I shared what I learned with my own family and it helped to shift some perspectives they had as well.
What You Will Discover
– How women were helping women at birth since human ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers;
– Origins of midwifery and what “social childbirth” was
– How doctors started attending childbirth for upper and middle class women
– How and why AMA was formed in 1847; How doctors, through AMA, started lobbying for medical licensing laws;
– What were the organized medicine’s real motives for pushing for licensing
– How organized medicine ultimately succeeded in passing very strict licensing laws in ever state.
– Changes in the society: urbanization, the beginning of breaking down of the communities, and the destruction of the communities
– How Organized Medicine used a very real problem – high maternal and infant mortality rates in the early 20th century to scapegoat the midwives;
– How nevertheless the authors of the studies concluded with the recommendation to upgrade the profession of obstetrics and to eliminate midwives
– How in places where midwives could not be immediately eliminated, doctors accepted midwives as a necessary evil, to be tolerated until elimination were possible
– How licensing was used as the means of elimination
– The differences between the old midwifery and the new
– So many amazing stories of the women who have played a part in the contemporary herstory of midwifery in the US
Course Runs May 3rd through July 12th
(Required donation is $249 or 4 Payments of $62.25.)