Author Archives: Janette Allotey

About Janette Allotey

Retired midwifery lecturer (University of Manchester) and Chair of De Partu

A funded PhD studentship: ‘Public Understandings of Fertility, Pregnancy or Post-Natal Health: A Cultural History’

The topic is Public Understandings of Fertility, Pregnancy or Post-Natal Health: A Cultural History; the supervision is split between Birkbeck’s School of Arts and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Students are asked to define their project, specifying a period of history, and a specific health topic within maternity health, broadly conceived.

Details here

 

Interesting paper ‘Reviewing the Womb’

In the current issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dunja Begovi, Elizabeth Chloe Romanis and Alexandra Mullock suggest in an open access article ‘Reviewing the womb‘ that women’s reproductive freedom is under threat in many ways as the uterus becomes more accessible and amenable to medical management. It discusses some of the associated ethical and legal dangers which have emerged from developments in reproductive technology, and reflects on the historical notions of woman as the (sometimes incompetent) vessel for the nurturing of the male seed, where the focus lies on the fruit of the womb, on the fetus rather than the mother.

Mary Toft in eighteenth-century England…

Whether or not you have read The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder, reviewed for De Partu by Dr Ashleigh Blackwood, you may enjoy listening to an interview with the author, Professor Karen Harvey, who asks why on earth would a woman wish to pretend to give birth to rabbits…how could it be true …and why would contemporary medical men appear to believe this and investigate it?
The interview is from an ‘History Extra’ podcast for BBC History Magazine.

Books available for review

The following new publications will soon be available for review:

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America by Lara Freidenfelds (Oxford University Press, 2020)
Midwifery from the Tudors to the Twenty-First Century: History, Politics and Safe Practice in England, by Julia Allison (Routledge, 2020)
NB the latter is in PDF format only; publishers are no longer posting out review copies owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Please contact the Book Review Editor, Dr Alison Nuttall (alison_m_nuttall@hotmail.com) if you are interested in reviewing either of these titles.

History of childbirth event at the Foundling Museum – POSTPONED

We are very sorry indeed, but in view of the very sensible concerns of a number of delegates and the rapidly evolving public health warnings about the coronavirus, we have this morning taken the decision to postpone our study day at the Foundling Museum in London scheduled for Saturday March 14th.  We’re aware that our delegates include quite a number of people who have care responsibilities for the more vulnerable, and we wish to avoid exposing them to any additional risk at this time. We hope you will understand this decision – which we’ve taken with much regret – in these exceptional circumstances. We are currently firming up with the Foundling Museum an alternative Saturday date – on this same theme and in a similar format (with their summer exhibition to visit) – a little later in 2020, hoping the coronavirus outbreak will then be safely behind us.

Valerie and Janette

Valerie Worth (Mellon-TORCH KE Fellow, Oxford University)
Janette Allotey (Chair of de Partu)

Book review needed

Hearn, Karen (2020) Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media

We are seeking from among our membership a reviewer for this book, which is being published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Foundling Museum in London. The review will be published on the websites both of De Partu and of the British Society for the History of Medicine. Please email Alison Nuttall if you are interested: alison_m_nuttall@hotmail.com.

Hearn, Karen (2020). Portraying Pregnancy: from Holbein to Social Media
London: Paul Holberton Publishing
Paperback, 242 x 168 mm
144 pages, 60 illustrations 
ISBN: 978-1-911300-80-9

Royal College of Midwives – Special collections

‘This collection comprises primarily personal papers originally deposited at the Royal College of Midwives, now held at the RCOG. It includes case registers, pupil case books, notebooks, diaries, photographs and printed material, relating to the experiences of midwives and how childbirth has changed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’

A very useful table of contents is available via the JISC Archives Hub.

A collection of useful links is available in the members area of our website including links to archives, libraries and museums and items related to historiography…

De-medicalisation of breast feeding …

Wellcome Collection image: Madonna and child showing breast feeding. Milan. Musee Poldi-Pezzolige

In 1982 Chloe Fisher, who has dedicated much of her life to educating midwives and women on infant feeding and to supporting breast feeding mothers, published a historical review of  modern breastfeeding ‘management’ and the origins of certain restrictive practices which prevailed for a considerable time during the twentieth century. While contemporary medical experts were advocating limiting the duration of initial breast feeds and no night feeds, at the end of this paper Chloe highlights the words of those who challenged such notions but whose work had hitherto been largely unrecognised. The following is a quotation from the concluding paragraphs of her paper:

‘Early in this decade [the 1950s] two well designed research projects (Illingworth and Stone, 1952: Newton, 1952) came to the conclusion that removing the restrictions would aid the establishment of lactation and reduce the incidence of problems. Other work led the author of a comprehensive history of infant feeding to say, of self-demand feeding,“When this regime becomes universally adopted, as surely it will, so the last chapter on the history of infant feeding will be concluded” (Wickes, 1953). That was in 1953!  

In the developed world, slavish adherence to the earlier theories probably did as much harm to human lactation as the promotion of artificial feeds. But that we should have been guilty of taking these ideas to the developing countries, where artificial feeding can cause gross malnutrition, if not death, should make us pause for serious thought. How did it take another 20 years for the hoped-for improvements to begin to occur here? There is no simple answer, but a large contribution to the delay must have come from the rapid increase in hospital confinements, as it was in hospitals that these practices were firmly established. The rapid and happy changes that are now taking place owe much to the insistence of the many mothers who wish to breastfeed their babies. For the few professionals who are deeply concerned to increase breastfeeding, both for the sake of the mothers and their babies, exciting and rewarding times lie ahead.’ 

The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative World Breast Feeding Week (August 1st–7th 2018) ended recently. In the UK, the week was preceded by a sensational Channel 4 film in the Dispatches series, ‘Breast feeding uncovered’,  which explored the experience of breast feeding mothers today through the eyes of a breast feeding investigative journalist. It would appear that, while many women are now motivated to breast feed, society’s attitude towards feeding in public and the recognition of its benefits to babies and families and ultimately to society, could be better.

J C Allotey 09/08/18

References

Fisher, C. (1982). Mythology in midwifery – or “making breastfeeding scientific and exact”. Oxford Medical School Gazette, Trinity Term, 30-33.

Illingworth, R.S., and D.G.H. Stone (1952). Self demand feeding in a maternity unit. Lancet, 1, 683.

Newton, N. (1952). Nipple pain and nipple damage. Journal of Pediatrics, 41, 411

Wickes, I.G. (1953). A history of infant feeding. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 128, 151