Liz Stika


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History of Midwifery



Liz Stika



Objectives for live class:

Students will discuss major topics of the history of midwifery throughout the ages

  • Birth in Ancient times, discussion of birth art

  • The dark ages, the church, witch hunts, and the position of midwives

  • Renaissance

  • Medicalization

    • discuss the active degradation of midwives in the 1800’s.  Underground midwifery

    • Granny Midwives, American Indian Midwives

  • The effect of nurse midwifery and government programs on modern midwifery/maternity care

  • Where do we go from here?  Current events

Students will discuss and draw conclusions about the effect major historical events and cultural climate have had on the status and practice of midwifery



  1. Varney’s Midiwfery

Ch 1 The profession and History of Midwifery in the United States

  1. “Remarks the on the employment of females as practitioners of midwifery”  Walter Channing


Midwife biography of choice- eg:

  • Baby Catcher, by Peggy Vincent

  • Lady’s Hands, Lion’s Heart, by Carol Leonard

  • The Midwife Trilogy, by Jennifer Worth 

  • Listen to Me Good, by Margaret Charles Smith

  • And many more…

Midwifery/ birth history text of choice-eg:

  • Witches, Midwives and Nurses, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English

  • Birth Chairs, Midwives and Medicine, by Amanda Carsen Banks

  • How to do it: Guides to good living for renaissance Italians, Rudolf Bell

  • At least three historical texts on midwifery or obstetrics, written in antiquity, eg:

    • Ebers papyrus

    • Soranus’ writings on gynecology

    • The Trotula

    • Labor among Primitive People’s, George Engleman

Assignments :  

  1. Short answer questions for Varney’s ch 1.   

  1. Choose an era and aspect of midwifery/gynecology that interests you (Birth tools in ancient times, medieval medicine and midwifery, suturing in the renaissance, anesthesia in the 1800’s/twilight sleep, etc).  Write 3-5 page paper exploring your topic. See student manual for grading rubric.  Must include 3 sources.  Avoid discussing the evolution of a topic over a period of time, and try to stick to your era of your choice.  You may choose an era from ancient times to the late 1800’s.  

  1. Read one book (biography, autobiography or journal) about a midwife, student's choice.  Give 5 minute "review" of book and midwife's life to the class.  Introduce your midwife, then present 5 highlights about the midwife’s life and contributions to her community and midwifery at large

  1. Look up and become familiar with the following current topics.  Write a few sentences describing each one

-"The Big Push"

-Amnesty International's article "Deadly Delivery"

-Current WHO stance of midwifery and the state of maternity care in the world

-The development of MANA and NARM (who and what they are, what they do)

-2014 MANA article on the safety of planned home birth


MANA Guiding Principles of Practice

The midwife provides care according to the following principles:

  • Pregnancy and childbearing are are natural physiologic life processes

  • Women have within themselves the innate biological wisdom to give birth

  • Physical, emotional, psychosocial and spiritual factors synergistically shape the health of individuals and effect the childbearing process

  • The childbearing experience and birth of a baby are personal, family, and community events

  • The woman is the only direct care provider for herself and her unborn baby; thus the most important determinant of a healthy pregnancy is the mother herself

  • The parameters of “normal” vary widely, and each pregnancy, birth and baby are unique



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