A Social History of Maternity and Childbirth : Key Themes in Maternity Care book cover
1st Edition

A Social History of Maternity and Childbirth
Key Themes in Maternity Care

ISBN 9780415561631
Published April 23, 2012 by Routledge
200 Pages

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Book Description

People are fascinated by stories of childbirth, and the sources to document maternity in Britain in the twentieth century are rich and varied. This book puts the history of maternity in England into its wider social context, highlighting areas of change and continuity, and charting the development of pregnancy and birth as it emerged from the shadows and became central to social debate.

A Social History of Maternity and Childbirth considers the significance of the regulation and training of midwives and doctors, exploring 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, as well as local health records and contemporary reports and papers, this book explores the experiences of women and families, and includes the voices of women, midwives and doctors. Key themes are discussed throughout, including:

  • the work and status of the midwife
  • the place of birth
  • pain relief
  • ante- and post- natal care
  • women’s pressure groups
  • high-tech versus low-tech
  • political pressures.

At a time when the midwifery profession, and the wider structure of maternity care, is a matter for popular and political debate, this book is a timely contribution. It will be an invaluable read for all those interested in maternity care in England.

Table of Contents

Introduction  1. Historiography and Comparisons: Introduction, Historiography of Midwifery, The Sociological Context of Maternity History, The International Context, Conclusion  2. 1902-1914: Introduction, Informing Ideologies? Eugenics and Physical, Deterioration, Delivering maternity care in 1902, Birth and death, Conclusion  3. 1915-1939: Introduction, Maternal mortality, Changing patterns of care, A state maternity service?, Hospital birth, Midwives, Conclusion  4. 1940-1960: Introduction, The Golden Age of District Midwifery?, GPs and Maternity Care, Reports and Arguments, Providing Analgesia 5. 1961-1980: Introduction, Scientific Birth, The Place of Birth, What Did Women Want?, The Response of the Service, Conclusion  6. 1981-2002: Introduction, Demonstrating for Change, Changing Childbirth, Research and Education, Obstetrics Triumphant? Conclusion  Appendix 1: Main Government Legislation Relevant to Maternity Care  Appendix 2: National Reports Relevant to Maternity Care

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Tania McIntosh is Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Nottingham, UK. Initially trained as an historian, Dr. McIntosh worked as a tutor in History at the University of Sheffield, until 2000 when she commenced midwifery training at the same university. Since then she has worked as a clinical midwife in Sheffield and at the City Hospital Nottingham. In 2009 she was one of the founders of De Partu, a national interdisciplinary research group for the history of midwifery and birth.


‘This social history of maternity care in the century following the 1902 Midwives Act, or as McIntosh says "stories of great men and angry women", is elegantly presented, accessible and very readable. The wealth of her research, collection of oral history and economy of expression make this book not only a "must have" for all students of healthcare, medicine and social studies but a lesson in researching and writing histories.’ – Julia Allison, author of Delivered at Home and former General Secretary of The Royal College of Midwives.

‘This excellent book is a very welcome addition to the literature. It fills a significant gap in our understanding of twentieth century maternity care, which is timely for current debates. The author, both a midwife and a historian, draws on her detailed documentary and oral history research to create a nuanced social history that is both scholarly and also highly readable. Never afraid to be controversial and challenge the accepted view, the author weaves together the personal and the public to provide new insights into the perspectives of mothers, midwives and doctors and how these influenced the complex changes that occurred over this period’ – Billie Hunter, RCM Chair of Midwifery at Cardiff University, UK.


"This book was a joy to read; indeed, I would describe it as a little gem of a book. Slim, with only 150 pages of main text, it manages to incorporate discussion on over 100 years of maternity care in England. As someone who enjoys reading history books – especially when they relate to women’s lives – I found it fascinating to delve into this history."-Gemma McKenzie, AIMS, UK