The History of Midwifery

May 04, 2017

The History of Midwifery

For many moms, once they find out they are expecting, the automatic assumption is that it’s time to see a gynecologist. But did you know that you have another option too? 


While you probably know a little about them, today, we’re going to dig a little into the history of midwifery. By learning more about their techniques and practices, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on your delivery preferences! 

midwives history of


In the easiest of definitions, it is the profession of assisting women in childbirth. A midwife, which literally translates into “with woman,” is a specialist who has training in normal pregnancy and birthing. Expecting moms who don't pose risks can utilize the services of a midwife from pre-to-postnatal care! 


Midwifery was around as early as the days of Hippocrates, aka: the Father of Scientific Medicine! Unfortunately, the practice of midwifery has not maintained a steady place in medicine. 


In the 1920s, high mortality rates among infants & mothers during delivery brought a shift towards the use of nurse-midwives. With the help of midwives, healthy women were able to deliver naturally without doctoral inteference. However, it was also during this same time that “birth drugs” began their introduction! 

Scopolamine, a drug used in Germany in the 1920s, slowly made its way to the USA and by the 60s was a typical drug used during delivery. The downside? This drug carried tons of side effects which affected memory and self-awareness. Women would forget who they were, the full details of the delivery, and, at times, even became violent. Due to these issues, doctors began strapping women to their beds (for days!) while they recovered post-delivery. This method became known as “twilight sleep.” As twilight sleep became a more known phenomenon, a rebellion agains it began and midwives & natural birthing slowly began to make a comeback. 

1950s, 60s, AND 70s

During the 50s and 60s, and especially during the hippie era, the sense of community helped bring back the natural portion of birthing. With the help of other women around and a need to get back to natural roots, there was a steady rise in natural births and breastfeeding! 

As it usually goes, by the 70s, technology had caught up once again. Fetal heart rate monitors were introduced to hospitals, which resulted in an increase in the rate of c-sections from 4% to 23%! 

Since this time, the rate of c-sections has risen steadily, and as of 2005, 1 in every 3 women had delivered this way. 


In this day, obstetrics have made the use of medicines a part of their daily deliveries. Even in a low risk birth, epidurals can be administered to ease labor pains. If mom is not laboring quickly enough, a shot of Pitocin (or other contraction inducing drugs) will also be provided. Depending on the severity of labor, an obstetric doctor will encourage further medicine to intervene during delivery as they see fit. 

As more women are learning about the options for delivery, there has been a slow rise in the use of midwives. While midwives attend over 70% of births in Europe, only approximately 8% of births in the US are in the care of midwives. 


While a midwife will respect your wishes to have as natural a birth as possible, they do come prepared with certain medications and IVs in case of emergency. 

Most women who opt to use a midwife for delivery have previously decided to have as natural a delivery as possible! While mom might be screaming for an epidural during a contraction, a midwife will gently try and remind her of her birth plan to see if she’s willing to continue with it. 


While there are many, we’ll tell you about our two favorite benefits: 

  1. The immediate skin-to-skin contact for bonding, and
  2. Being able to breastfeed right away

Within a short time after baby is born, mom will begin releasing many natural endorphins. With a natural birth that has no medications, mom has constant self-awareness. This helps in immediately putting the baby to her chest and being able to create the mother-baby bond. This also plays into the role of releasing colostrum for the baby and mom being able to offer their breast for feeding quickly. 

If you are currently pregnant and in good health, check out midwifery services near you! A midwife can facilitate a home birth or a hospital birth!

And if you’re reading along to know more about your options for when you are pregnant, we hope this gives you additional insight into future considerations! 

By Myra Aslam @ Bliss Creative

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