Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950 / Edition 1

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Based on personal accounts by birthing women and their medical attendants, Brought to Bed reveals how childbirth has changed from colonial times to the present.
Judith Walzer Leavitt's study focuses on the traditional woman-centered home-birthing practices, their replacement by male doctors, and the movement from the home to the hospital. She explains that childbearing women and their physicians gradually changed birth places because they believed the increased medicalization would make giving birth safer and more comfortable. Ironically, because of infection, infant and maternal mortality did not immediately decline. She concludes that birthing women held considerable power in determining labor and delivery events as long as childbirth remained in the home. The move to the hospital in the twentieth century gave the medical profession the upper hand. Leavitt also discusses recent events in American obstetrics that illustrate how women have attempted to retrieve some of the traditional women—and family—centered aspects of childbirth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Certainly the most authoritative medical historical text on the subject in America at this time."—W. R. Penman, M.D. and D. I. Lansing, M.D., Obstetrics Society of Philadelphia

"In this groundbreaking study...Leavitt has given the history of childbirth back to women. An elegant, sensitive, and fascinating book!"—Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez, University of California, Los Angeles

"A superb book for anyone interested in birthing, obstetrics, or even just the history of women in the United States."—Journal of the American Medical Women's Association

"A strong and sensitive contribution to understanding the (supine) position of today's childbearing woman."—Newsday

"An absorbing, richly-documented and well-argued explanation of how childbirth moved from the home to the hospital....[Its] broad conception, its balance, and its basic commitment to reconstituting the voices of women make it a classic in women's history writing."—The Women's Review of Books

"A book for men as well as women....Clearly written and persuasively documented."—Carl N. Degler, The New Republic

"In this impressive history Judith Walzer Leavitt examines centuries of childbirth experiences and analyzes how and why changes occurred....There can be no question...about the importance of this excellent study."—Isis

"A significant achievement....Certain to become a model for the new medical history, and for feminist scholarship as well."—Medical Humanities Review

"Like a good chocolate dessert, Brought to Bed is rich and filling."—Journal of Nurse-Midwifery

"A masterful examination of the competing medical, social, and intellectual forces that shaped modern obstetric practice....A wonderful book that gives new direction to the history of women and health."—Reviews in American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195056907
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1988
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.31 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Walzer Leavitt is Professor of History of Medicine and Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of The Healthiest City and editor of Women and Health in America and Sickness and Health in America.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 "Under the Shadow of Maternity": Childbirth and Women's Lives in America 13
2 "Science" Enters the Birthing Room: The Impact of Physician Obstetrics 36
3 "Overcivilization and Maternity": Differences in Women's Childbirth Experiences 64
4 "Only a Woman Can Know": The Role of Gender in the Birthing Room 87
5 "The Greatest Blessing of This Age": Pain Relief in Obstetrics 116
6 Why Women Suffer So: Meddlesome Midwifery and Scrupulous Cleanliness 142
7 "Alone Among Strangers": Birth Moves to the Hospital 171
8 Decision-Making and the Process of Change 196
Epilogue 213
Notes 219
Chronology of Events in Childbirth History 263
Glossary of Medical Terms 271
Index 277
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2008

    A reviewer

    Leavitt truly captures the American birth experiences. A must read for all expecting women especially when deciding between a home birth or a hospital birth, a midwife or an OB.

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