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Becoming a grandmother—Has childbirth really changed?

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 01 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1426
  1. Ann Oakley

    It was a long labour—23 hours from when the membranes ruptured to the birth. But then the length of labour has always been one of the subjects on which mothers and obstetric case notes tend to differ. There are quite a lot of things that mothers and health professionals disagree about, and it is partly because we now understand these better that childbirth has changed so much over the past 30 years.

    Women in Britain used to give birth in a horizontal position and in the presence of masked and gowned hospital staff without the support of familiar companions. The dehumanising rituals of shaving and enemas prevailed. No one was allowed to eat in labour, and walking around or even getting off the bed were unthinkable. And then all the new gadgetry of electronic fetal heart rate monitoring, syntocinon pumping machines, and epidural analgesia arrived to make the labouring mother even more of a hostage to technology. No wonder women complained.

    This was how it was when …

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