Midwives Weren’t Always Accepted In Society
Midwives have become part of many women’s care teams during pregnancy. Even if they are not the main point of contact, because of their abilities to perform prenatal checks and deliver babies, midwives are extremely beneficial for women given that they are historically known for letting mothers-to-be have more of a say over their pregnancies, according to Healthline.
This is why they are so tempting to turn to and ultimately have a low-risk home birth with because there is so much more control for women over the way labor and delivery will go. It is mind-boggling that such an integral part of the pregnancy support group was not always accepted in society. Especially considering they were at one time, the only group of people who delivered babies.
In the United States, a mere eight percent of women have a midwife as the person delivering their babies or as part of the team helping to deliver their babies, according to ScientificAmerican. This is far less than in countries such as France, Australia, or the UK, where there are as many midwives as there are doctors to deliver babies.
What differs is that while midwifery used to be just as popular in the US as it was in European countries centuries ago, with the advent of modern medicine that changed. Doctors were revered as the experts on babies and midwives were seen as less than. Leaving a divide between the two providers that have yet to be fully healed today.
Here is why midwives were not always accepted in society.
During the colonial period, there was no fight about midwives delivering babies. It was anticipated that other women close to those expecting would be in the room during labor and delivery with midwives while men waited until their babies were born to have any further contact with their wives.
Midwives were seen as the experts in their field.
According to WHYY, in 1760, that all changed. This is because with the amount of death that surrounded childbirth, women with means wanted to have medical intervention if possible. And because of this, they sought out the care of their doctors believing they were more knowledgeable than midwives. Something that was not necessarily true.
Thus began the decline of midwifery in the US.
Midwifery Nearly Ended With Babies Being Born In Hospitals
With the advent of modern medicine and the popularity of giving birth in hospitals in the early twentieth century in the United States, the profession of midwifery took a huge hit, according to The Journal of Perinatal Education. It was already seeing a decline in popularity after men saw profitability in joining the field of childbirth. And because of this, women found themselves fighting to keep the very jobs they had perfected over centuries.
To help remain competitive with doctors in obstetrics, midwives pushed to have more education available to them. It was ultimately denied, per the publication. In conjunction with this happening, it was touted that giving birth was safer in the hospital. And because of this, by the 1950s, according to The Journal of Perinatal Education, 90 percent of births took place in the hospital. A number that has stayed fairly consistent since that time.
Doctors & Midwives Were Pitted Against One Another
When the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecology was founded in 1930, midwives and doctors found themselves pitted against one another. This was because, according to Healthcare Daily Online, the board declared that midwifery was illegal in most states. Only surviving in poorer and African American communities in the south.
The goal, however, was to put an end to midwifery completely. Not being able to do that because women were still choosing to have their babies with a midwife, per the publication, concessions were made and midwives were allowed to practice. But to do so, there were plenty of hoops to jump through. Many of which came with healthcare reformers trying to damage midwives’ character so that they could be eradicated for good.
This did not work. But in order to stay relevant, midwives had to move to hospital settings to practice, according to Healthcare Daily Online. Meaning that the care that midwives were used to providing in homes began to dwindle. With just one percent of births happening in homes today.
Midwifery Is Making A Slow Resurgence Today
Midwifery is working on making a comeback today. Though it may not be practiced in the way it was in the past.
According to Our Bodies Ourselves Today, in the 1970s, only one percent of births had certified midwives present. Jump ahead to 2020 and 10 percent of births in hospitals with 15 percent of vaginal births attended by certified midwives.
Of the births that midwives attend, 95 percent occur in hospitals these days, per the publication. The other five percent happen in homes or birth centers.
Whether there will ever be the number of midwives in the US that there are in other countries remains to be seen. But with midwives being at risk for malpractice suits both in homes and birthing centers, it is making it hard for them to practice anywhere but the hospital. Meaning that the days of women giving birth in an environment of their own choosing may become a thing of the past.