The role of the Newfoundland midwife in traditional health care, 1900 to 1970

McNaughton, Janet Elizabeth (1989) The role of the Newfoundland midwife in traditional health care, 1900 to 1970. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

This work examines empirically trained midwives in twentieth century Newfoundland. A history of efforts to train and licence these women, and discussion of the motivations of those who attempted to control and educate midwives is provided. Although most Newfoundland midwives ceased regular practice by 1965, there was never a systematic effort to eradicate the practice of midwifery by empirically trained women. Traditional obstetric care, the care women received during the prenatal period, labour and delivery and confinement is described in detail. Gestation, childbirth and the period of confinement that followed were regarded as uncertain, and at least potentially dangerous for both mother and child. -- Traditional obstetric care was not marked by extreme intervention. Midwives dealt effectively with some complications, but had definite limitations, which they recognized. The relationship between midwives and health care professionals, and the impact of medical obstetrics on traditional care is discussed. Medicalization of childbirth occurred in Newfoundland because midwives and their clients wished this change, though many women regretted the loss of the personal care they received from friends and midwives in their own homes. -- Most women did not rely on midwifery as their main source of income, but the occupation had a distinct folklife. Narratives told by midwives about their work reveal common attitudes towards childbirth, and the attributes of a good midwife. Patterns of selection and training of midwives are also discussed. The role of midwife is placed in the context of traditional healing practices, and the social organization of outport communities. The role of midwife was not connected with supernatural powers. Midwives were often drawn from upper and middle ranks of their communities, and the role conferred status and respect.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/799
Item ID: 799
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 327-347
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1989
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Obstetrics--Newfoundland and Labrador--History; Midwives--Newfoundland and Labrador--Folklore

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