Midwifery, 1700-1800: the man-midwife as competitor

King, Helen (2012). Midwifery, 1700-1800: the man-midwife as competitor. In: Borsay, Anne and Hunter, Billie eds. Nursing and Midwifery in Britain Since 1700. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 107–127.

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This chapter charts the changes in the role of the midwife after 1700, in both urban and rural contexts. For women outside the major towns in particular, the midwife had not only been the main provider of care in childbirth, but had also traditionally worked in related areas: the disorders of children, and conditions affecting women’s bodies beyond those associated with giving birth. By 1800, the situation was very different. The cause was the rise of the man-midwife, who had succeeded in claiming control over the management not just of difficult births, but also of normal labour. This chapter focuses on three main themes: the rise of the man-midwife; the use of science to overcome moral objections to the involvement of men in childbirth; and the evolution of a new division of labour between the two occupational groups.

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