Maternity Through the Ages by Emma

While reading Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank by Randi Hutter Epstein, M. D., I noticed how she related the tools used to “Hook, stab, and rip apart a hard-to-deliver baby”(p.19). Due to this gruesome extraction process, the infant mortality rate was 20%, according to, and the chances of dying in childbirth increased with the amount of children, 8-10 per woman. The tools used to deliver a child during difficult labor bore a striking resemblance to old torture devices from the medieval times, or kitchen tools spliced together. For example, forceps looked like two soup ladles attached by a spring and, “one looked like a gigantic cast-iron corkscrew.”(p.19).fetal-scalp-electrode This was before science really kicked in.

Today there are pain relievers, there are safer methods for difficult childbirth, cesarean section for example, and the infant mortality has gone down to about 6 deaths out of 1,000 births according to That is a huge improvement compared to the last century or so. If there had been just a difference in time, a newborn saved today would’ve died in the 18th-20th century. One main reason for the infant mortality was the Chamberlens refusing to reveal their secret tool, the forceps. forceps
According to the book, “It’s been said that if the Chamberlen boys had passed around the how-to-make-your-own-forceps manual, thousands of babies generations past would have been saved.”(p.33). Today, doctors can share their inventions freely and have it still be theirs because of patents and copyright laws. However, back then there was no law protecting inventions, so anyone could claim it was their original idea and not be sued or fined. Maybe that’s why the Chamberlens were so hesitant to share the instrument with the public.

Throughout history, it is clear that even maternity was not safe from discrimination. For example, in the past, medical experiments were conducted only on black people, slaves or free, and not on white citizens. If doctors from the past centuries looked into today, they would probably be amazed at all the technology and tools available in the medical industry. They would be appalled at how many opportunities women have today. However, we are probably not that far in knowledge, as the book states, “Today’s medical textbooks are outdated by the time they go to press.”(p.8). If we are learning from outdated information, then the medical field is advancing too fast to keep up with it and it’s like we are living in the past. However, we go off of what we can to ensure the safety of the future generation.



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