Thursday, February 4, 2010

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth

Cover of Get Me OutHere's a book to add to the must-read list... Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank. Author Randi Hutter Epstein was on NPR's All Things Considered today, and here are a few of the topics I'll be interested to read more about:

  • The Chamberlen family of doctors, who invented the modern forceps and then kept the technology as a proprietary trade secret so they could be the doctors of kings. Hard to say how many children and women died because of their decision. Now there's an argument for open systems.
  • A Southern doctor named Sims, who had some good news and some bad news. The good: He figured out how to cure vaginal fistula (tears in the vaginal walls). The bad (very, very bad): He worked out the details of his cure by practicing on enslaved women. And I gathered he wasn't practicing on tears that occurred naturally. Ugh!
  • Class issues have a lot to do with attitudes about and access to the range of childbirth technologies. In the early 20th century, some upper class women agitated for the right to be knocked out while giving birth. But it turned out they weren't actually unconscious -- they were in pain and trussed up so their movements could be controlled. They just didn't remember it because the drugs had an amnesiac effect. Another ugh!
With stories like that to look forward to, I can't wait to get a copy!


elena said...

You and others may also be interested in "Reading Birth and Death: A History of Obstetric Thinking," by Jo Murphy-Lawless, Trinity College Dublin.

elena said...

~ Also good: "Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth" (University of Illinois Press, 1995), winner of the 1997 Jesse Bernard Award of the American Sociological Association.
by Robbie Pfeufer Kahn.

Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, Elena. I knew you would have some thoughts on this.

sasha said...

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