6 Things You Didn’t Know About The History of Obstetrics

January 14, 2015

For many women, a visit to the OB/GYN is something fearful or shameful. In fact, those of us who work in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology are kind, compassionate and love what we do. Where society has placed an embarrassing stigma on anything having to with female reproduction – often referred to as “down there” or “female parts” – we view them as a natural, wonderful and regular phenomena that require gentle attention and care for our patients’ overall comfort and health.

Female Doctor Holding Clipboard

Image Courtesy of Imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Get Comfortable With Obstetrics By Learning 6 Facts You (Probably) Didn’t Know

Because of the aforementioned stigma and mystery that has surrounded female reproductively for centuries, there is much about the realm of Obstetrics that people never learn. Here are a few facts that will educate you and, hopefully, make you feel more comfortable the next time you visit your OB/GYN. If nothing else, they will give you something to talk about when your feet are in the stirrups.

  1. We have midwives to thank for the development of obstetrics. For the past several decades, midwives have been thrust to the sidelines. Fortunately, midwifery is making a comeback and thousands of women enjoy the care of midwives and OBs. Either way, midwives are the ones who have assisted women during labor for thousands upon thousands of years. Without them, and their copious amount of knowledge, the first rung of obstetrics would never have been climbed. In fact, until the 20th century, the science of Obstetrics was still referred to as Midwifery in medical schools – and obstetrix is the Latin word for midwife!
  2. The science of birth has been written about for thousands of years. There are texts dating back from the time of Hippocrates (5th century B.C.) and beyond that discuss obstetrics in detail, including best practices for childbirth and postpartum care.
  3. The first obstetric textbook was a bestseller. It’s true! The first (recorded) obstetrics textbook was published in 1513. It was titled, Der Schwangern Frauen und Hebamen Rosengarten, later shortened to Der Rosengarten, and was translated into multiple languages. It was written by Eucharius Rosslin, an apothecary, who mostly compiled and restated texts from the ancient scientists and philosophers.
  4. Sunday is a day of rest for babies. Or maybe it’s the doctors? Ever since inductions – inducing labor using synthetic hormones such as pitocin – have gone up – the amount of babies born on Sunday has gone down. Sunday is also most doctors’ day off. Coincidence? We think not.
  5. Cesareans are the most common major surgical procedure performed in the U.S. There are two reasons why C-sections are the most common major surgical procedure performed in the U.S. The first is that C-Sections can now be done electively, rather than as a last alternative. The second is that with the rising rates of induced labors and other interventions, there has been a proportional rise in fetal/maternal distress, which typically results in an emergency C-section. Make sure you understand the risks and complications associated with C-Sections before scheduling one or electively inducing your labor.
  6. Female obstetricians are still in the minority. Once the field of medicine and the arena of pregnancy and childbirth were usurped by modern medicine – all doctors, including obstetricians were men. The first female to graduate from medical school was Elizabeth Blackwell back in 1821, although it took more than a century and a half for female doctors to be considered “normal.” While obstetrics is still a male dominated field, the tides are turning and women are beginning to outnumber men when it comes to choosing obstetrics as a specialty.

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