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Reading midwifery notes from the 1970s...

post #1 of 4
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My mother just did a cleanout and came across some notes and case studies from her midwifery training back in the 70s. Knowing I'm into that sort of thing, she gave them to me - saying "Don't judge me, it was back in the day"!


They're fascinating. So far some tidbits I've gleaned include:


-The cure for cracked nipples is to apply infrared radiation to the nipples at a distance of 30 inches... "under close supervision", I assume because nuking your nipples without close supervision would be, like, silly...


-The mother should breastfeed the baby for 3 minutes per side the first day, 5 the second, 7 the next and 10 the next - the person marking Mum's essay on this added "under strict supervision". She should then break the latch and remove the baby - if he were still hungry, she should offer him boiled water. (Poor babies! DS fed for a solid hour after he was born...)


-Before breastfeeding, the mother should wash her hands, change the baby and "attend" to his umbilical cord; make sure she is sitting in a comfortable place, wash her nipples with wool swabs and dry them carefully. Can you imagine going through all that with a baby screaming of hunger? (And then for the poor kid to only get three minutes a side... hardly seems worth the effort!)


-Women's urine was measured for a few days after birth. I'm not sure why... but Mum dutifully notes in her case studies that Mrs Whoever "voided 100mL urine" 4 hours after birth, plus the days on which she opened her bowels.


-One woman was given a sponge bath every half-hour "for comfort", which I would have thought would have been incredibly annoying. :p


-Routine enemas, AROM and episiotomy were commonplace, as was the lithotomy position... I guess I shouldn't be surprised about that, but it's kind of weird seeing it noted as a matter of course by my rather alternative mother! (Although I guess this was before she got bit by the crunchy bug...) They did encourage the mother to visit the newborn baby (in the nursery, of course...), and I found a few fairly progressive statements about encouraging the mother to breastfeed and noting that her relatives might try to put her off; so that was something.


-Colostrum should be expressed from week 30 of pregnancy onwards, to prevent mastitis.


-The breasts were to be thoroughly examined at the first prenatal appointment, to check for inverted nipples, sufficient tissue and various other things, including Crusting and Lumps. They also did a routine vaginal examination. I've gotta say, I'm glad that changed! My midwives certainly ended up seeing me in all my nekkid glory, but not until I was in labour.


-Sore nipples could be anointed with "woolfat", which I assume is an old-fashioned term for lanolin. Sounds appealing, doesn't it?


All in all, I'm extremely glad I didn't give birth in the 70s. The impression I got was that these women had to divulge a LOT of intimate details about their bodily functions, for no good reason I could see - on a few cases Mum recorded the colour and quantity of the lochia every hour, which seems like overkill - and submit to a lot of demoralising poking and prodding, including a vast number of internal exams during labour.


Anyway - just thought some of you might find this stuff as interesting as I do!

post #2 of 4

Very interesting.

post #3 of 4

Lol!  Wow....

post #4 of 4

WOW....it's no wonder that so many woman gave up on breast feeding.  It's likely a good thing to!


Happy to be birthing my children now.

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