Despite differences across space and time, humans have customarily shared one vital experience in common: childbirth. Since the dawn of life on Earth, individuals have experienced the privilege, pain, and pleasure of parenthood. With this fact in mind, bringing children into the world has never been a simple feat for women. Until quite recently in human history, birth has been an event almost singlehandedly overseen by other women through the practice of midwifery.
Let’s examine more closely a brief history of midwifery and childbirth practices. Here’s the most interesting background knowledge about this age-old tradition.
Midwifery: One of the World’s Oldest Practices
Midwifery is one of the most ancient professions for women. You can find references to its pivotal practices in ancient Greek and Roman texts. Few customs in our society have been around as long as midwifery. Across all cultures and nations, experienced midwives have delivered babies time and time again.
As a matter of fact, the word “midwife” itself means “with-women.” This speaks to its impressionable nature of woman-to-woman care, with familiarity passed from woman to woman after much time spent at an experienced elder’s side.
A Rise and Fall: The Move Toward Professionalism
In the Middle Ages, medical knowledge continued to develop for the better in Europe, especially in the area of obstetrics. Nonetheless, times grew troublesome for midwives, who often faced blame for pregnancy or delivery problems. Midwives mainly worked under the supervision of the State church, with male doctors called upon solely for emergencies. Male presence at childbirth began to grow more acceptable, but the importance of midwives to the social order remained steady.
Many of the initial groups who immigrated to the New World contained experienced midwives. During the first few centuries of the colonies, midwives orchestrated labor and delivery events. They also trained in the ways of apprenticeship. Yet—at the turn of the century in America—physicians gathered more control over medical fields, including obstetrics. Modernization soon changed mindsets on traditional midwives as the popularity of hospitalized care grew.
The Modern-Day Industry: Benefits of Midwifery
To continue our look at a brief history of midwifery and childbirth practices, we must jump ahead in time. Movements in the past century, not to mention the presence of formal education schools, have given midwifery a greater sense of professionalism. Nurse-midwifery provides a diverse road for people who wish to pursue obstetric training. Now, midwifery care is an appreciated alternative to childbirth—especially for people who desire individualized consideration and services for at-home births.
Safe, happy deliveries at home are possible with the right care and preparation from educated individuals. A present-day checklist for home births includes essential medical equipment for professional midwives who provide holistic women’s health care. The age-old tradition of midwifery continues as women choose to deliver comfortably in out-of-hospital settings.