Gertie Marx

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 04 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:586

Pioneer of the epidural anaesthetic for women in labour

Gertie Florentine Marx, a New York anaesthesiologist and a tireless advocate for womenand their babies, helped to launch obstetric anaesthesiology as a subspecialty. She devoted her professional career to promoting pain relief for pregnant women and introduced theuse of epidural anaesthesia for women during labour and delivery.

Her work transformed obstetric anaesthesia. In 1993 the Queen presented Dr Marx with alifetime service award and a college medal from the Royal College of Anaesthetists. She also received a distinguished service award from the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Despite her achievements, Dr Marx faced fierce opposition to her ideas—particularly the use of epidural anaesthesia for pregnant women.

Before the late 1960s, women had one of two options: either accept the well known risks of general sedation or anaesthesia for themselves and their babies or undertake sometimes difficult deliveries without any pain relief, a process that could be brutal for both mother and newborn. “There was no in-between,” said Dr Ingrid Hollinger, professor …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription