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Man-Midwifery Exposed and Corrected
Gregory, Samuel
Published by George Gregory, New York
Location of original: Countway Rare Books, Harvard University
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the subject will fairly admit. As to the difficulties which he suggests, and the cautions to midwives, there is no objection to their having their due weight.
'The propriety of men being employed in such a profession is much questioned, by many individuals of considerable repectability. It appears to us that this question, on which so much declamation has been employed by the parties who have agitated it, may be brought within a very narrow compass. It may be assumed as a fact established beyond the reach of controversy, that sometimes dangers and difficulties occur during labor which can be lessened or removed by those only who have an intimate knowledge of the structure of the human body and of the practice of physic. On such occasions, it must be admitted, medical men alone can be useful. But as such labors occur only in the proportion of two or three in the hundred, the general practice might be confided to midwives, if they could be taught to manage ordinary cases, and to foresee and distinguish difficulties or dangers, so as to procure in sufficient time additional assistance. It is on this point that the decision of the question must depend. It consists with the knowledge of the writer of this article, that women may be taught all this. But there are many who allege, that, a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, midwives acquire a self-sufficiency which renders them averse from calling superior assistance, and that, in consequence, they often occasion the most deplorable accidents both to mother and child. In England, this is the popular opinion, so that women are almost entirely excluded from the practice of midwifery. A similar prejudice has, it is believed, begun in some parts of Scotland: but it is presumed this will gradually cease, when it is considered that, in general, the Scotch midwives are regularly instructed, and are at the same time both virtuous and industrious. If they attend strictly to their duty, and invariabley prefer their patient's safety to their own feelings of supposed interests, they wil deservedly retain the public confidence. But if in cases of difficulty and danger they trust to their own exertions, or from interested motives decline the assistance of able practitioners, and if they interfere in the treatment of the diseases of women and children, they will in a few years be excluded from practice.'
This was written some five and twenty years ago. Midwives are still extensively employed in Scotland, but the tendency of
things has been there, as here, gradually to diminish their numbers; not however, on account of any fault of the midwives; but the medical profession, becoming more, numerous and more necessitous, take advantage of the public indifference in the matter, discourage the instruction of women, and then, on the score of their unskilfulness, secure to themselves the practice. So it has been and ever will be, among us, till the people take the matter in hand, and restore this office to its natural and original proprietors.
In England, the practice of midwifery is more exclusively in the hands of physicians, probably, than in any other country except our own. Not because hte women are there incompetent, but because they are kept ignorant of the matter, and are therefore unqualified. The name and office of accoucheur were introduced from France, very slowly however, from the fact that the English are not hasty in adopting the customs of their rival neighbors; but they have at length outstripped the inventors themselves in this matter. In the sixteenth century, the forceps (instruments for clasping the head and extracting the fetus) were invented by Dr. Chamberlain, who for many years kept his invention a secret, and obtained great reputation by their use in difficult labors.
Dr. John Maubray was the first public lecturer on midwifery in England. In 1723, he published a work on the subject, in which he strongly condemns the abuse of instruments, which had then come into general use among the obstetric 'artists.' 'I know some chirurgeon-practitioners,' says he,' are too much acquainted with the use of instruments to lay them aside; no, they do not (it may be) think themselves in their duty or proper office, if they have not their cruel accoutrements in hand; and what is most unaccountable and unbecoming a Christian is, that when they have wounded the mother, killed the infant, and with violent torture and inexpressible pain extracted it by piecemeal, they think no reward sufficient for such an extraordinary piece of mangled work. i would advise such to practise butchery rather than midwifery, for in that case they could sell what they slay.'
In 1760, there appeared a treatise on 'Midwifery,' by Mrs. Elizabest Nihell, professed midwife. She exposes the abuse of instruments advocates the employment of women, and vehemently protests against the interference of men. There is, says she, 'a curse that attends their operations; for diffi-
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