The childbirth movement started in the 1950s from an out cry of parents that felt birth had to be changed.
Back then women were literally being medicated, tied down with straps, and left alone to labor for hours. Fathers were excluded from attending the births of their babies.
An article written in the Ladies Home Journal, entitled “Cruelty in Maternity Wards”, sparked a conversation. Women from across the United States sent in letters to the LHJ sharing grief and trauma from their childbirth experiences in the maternity wards. What was even more moving was the testimony of labor and delivery nurses attesting to the facts of the cruelty women were subjected to during labor. Portions of these letters are documented in Reclaiming Birth by Margot Edwards & Mary Waldorf:
In that era of submission, it was easy to discard women’s opinions about birth because with few exceptions they were simply not heard…An exception was an outpouring in the pages of the Ladies’ Home Journal during 1958, prompted by a single letter from a registered nurse who dared not sign her name for fear of reprisal…The first complaint was that women were strapped hand, shoulder, and foot, on the delivery table and left sometimes for hours. Many correspondents agreed, often with grim details: “With leather cuffs strapped around my wrists and legs, I was left alone for nearly eight hours until the actual delivery.”
“My obstetrician wanted to get home for dinner. When I was taken to the delivery room my legs were tied way up in the air and spread as far apart as they would go…when I was securely tied down I was left alone.”
During this period, childbirth organizations were formed to give pregnant women a voice and exert their rights to be part of their own health care. We are proud to continue the work of advocating for pregnant women and working to implement evidence-based maternity care.
With 1 in 3 women giving birth by cesarean today, so many parallels exist to our grandmothers and mothers being strapped down to give birth. So in this day the question is what needs to be done next for maternity care?
Do we still need a childbirth movement?