The Revival of the Midwife
At the end of the 19th century, a dramatic change in prenatal care began. At this time, fewer than 3 percent of women gave birth in a hospital, but less than 70 years later, in 1960, 97percent were delivering in hospitals (Feldhusen; Poole 85). This abrupt change from home birth to hospital birth was caused by a campaign by doctors to discredit midwives and their natural way of birthing. Today, 89 percent of women give birth in hospitals (Lake 84). The 3 percent of women in 1960 and 11 percent today choose a midwife to deliver their bundles of joy. Despite having nearly been eradicated by doctors in the late 19th century and early 20th century, midwives are becoming popular again because women and their families are demanding a higher standard of prenatal care and a more personalized, less procedural birth.
Before the 20th century midwifery care was the only option for women, but when doctors began to specialize in obstetrics, midwives faced a changing world and were forced to reinvent their trade. While midwives struggled to professionalize their work, they were undermined by doctors. Physicians promised a pain free birth which midwives could not provide at the time, which translated to higher hospital birth rates. Physicians then launched an antimidwife campaign, claiming that midwives were uneducated and could kill a newborn with neglect (Poole 18). As a direct result of these campaigns, midwifery practice was illegal in nearly the entire United States from 1905 to 1950 (Lake 86). Today, Certified Nurse Midwifery care is legal in all of the United States, and collectively midwives deliver 1 in 8 births and the number continues to rise every year.
There are four distinct types of midwives which one must be familiar with in order to be able to understand why women are choosing midwives. Each type has a different level of training and a different capacity to care for a woman. A lay midwife is a midwife who “has no formal training.”...