The Evolution of Obstretics- Crystal R.

As a society, we have come a long way with technology, for example, medical advances which have impacted us all for the greater good. In the book Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank we receive the guidance of author Randi Hutter Epstein to stimulate the reader towards curiosity to think about the medical maze in a different perspective and allow us an insight of how much the medical field has developed throughout each century. This book specifically focuses on the evolution of obstetrics through history and science, leaving the reader to reflect on real life situations that actually happened and still happen to women all around the world every single day and how they are affected.

“On the most superficial level, the huge changes in the birth process reflect the rise of the urbanization, feminization, and technologicalization of American society.” (Intro: xii)

Before going in depth about the history of childbirth that I have gained knowledge about which is provided in this book, I would like to say that by only reading the first part I have been blown away at the fact that we have developed so much when it comes to childbirth. This book has also made me reflect and appreciate every single woman who has gone through labor due to the excruciating pain they go through. Luckily, due to the further research in childbirth throughout time, labor has become a lot easier not only for the doctors but for the mother and the newborn as well.

These medical and technological advances would not have been possible without the curiosity of medical researchers interested in the female reproductive system who have made our development much easier. Today, we know what it takes to get pregnant, having babies, and the care necessary during a pregnancy. As adviced by doctors, during pregnancy it is highly recommended to have frequent check-ups during specific stages of the pregnancy. When a woman learns that she has become pregnant, certain tests like a pelvic exam and Pap smear are performed to ensure that there are no abnormalities present in the womb that could affect both the mother and the newborn. This is something that was not available to women back in the 1800’s. In fact, though James Marion Sims did not like school much, he took interest in gynecology and he performed tests himself, becoming the first to successfully perform vaginal-tear experiments, though he really did not like performing “pelvic exams.”

“If there was anything I hated, it was investigating the organs of the female pelvis,” said J. Marion Sims.” (40)

Due to a couple of brave individuals who unfortunately were stripped down of their dignity, had no right to defend themselves of being publicly displayed in the nude or to mate in captivity. These individuals known as Anarcha, Betsy, Lucy, and seven other girls (and counting) were slaves who were frequently brought to Sims to conduct experiments on them.

“After the Mrs. Merril victory, Sims started “ransacking the county,” collecting slaves to embark on a “series of experiments to the end.”” (40)

J. Marion Sims with Anarcha and two physician partners

Unfortunately, that was one of the ways in which women were tested on in order for us to become healthy mothers and have an easy labor.

In addition, medical labor tools have developed as well. In the late 1500’s a tool known as forceps invented by the Chamberlen family was a tool that made labor easier for them, though they never wanted to share their secret tool with other doctors or midwives due to greed. This tool would clamp a newborn’s head without crushing it and it also made labor easy for mothers. Another tool which was not very effective was the Nineteenth-century Italian do-it-yourself forceps, which involved a rope to pull the newborn out of the womb, resulting in a tragic ending. Sims, the creator of the invention, the speculum, made from two large spoons that pushed the woman’s (Betsy) legs apart to get a better view of the inside of the vagina. In present day, we have instruments that are safer and sterile for use during labor.

Nineteenth-century Italian do-it-yourself forceps

In result, we have developed so much in the medical field that childbirth is easier compared to past centuries. We may still face many deaths of the mother and/or newborn but we are definitely growing each day into developing and reducing these risks to have healthy mothers and newborns.


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