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Obstetrics – a medical success

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Having babies is considered “natural” for women.  After all, the future of our species depends upon our women carrying and then giving birth.  We expect our women to be sitting up in bed after delivery, baby at the breast and everything just fine. 

Unfortunately, that has not always been the case.  Birthing is a situation of risk for both baby and mother.  I should know, I am a doctor, and I have delivered several babies under supervision as part of my training, but it is a very specialized field these days.

Professor J Drife, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Leeds, UK has written a very detailed paper showing the advances in childbirth techniques, showing that “Obstetrix” was the Latin word for midwife: being thought to derive from obstare (to “stand before”), because the attendant stood in front of the woman to receive the baby.

Did you know, the first successful caesarean section in the British Isles was performed by an Irish midwife, Mary Donally in 1738; in England by Dr James Barlow in 1793; and in America by Dr John Richmond in 1827.  Up till then, most caesarians resulted in the death of both the baby and the mother.  Things are a little different today!

John Williams, a respected American obstetrician, commenting on suggested remedies for puerperal fever, in 1925, said, “If you have a virulent organism and a non-resistant woman, death is the almost universal outcome, no matter what you do, and there is no use deceiving ourselves”.  In the 1930’s the overall death rate from puerperal fever in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, London, was 25 percent.  Since those days, there has been the development of antibiotics, to counter maternal infection.  Things are certainly a little different today.

More recently, improvements in obstetric anesthesia, including widespread use of epidurals, have reduced anesthetic deaths to almost zero.  Deaths from thromboembolism have been reduced, first by ending the practice of prolonged bed rest after delivery, and more recently by improved thromboprophylaxis for women at high risk.  The maternal mortality rate in Britain is now 11.4 per 100,000 maternities.

In Thailand, in the private hospital sphere, the figures are very similar to the British experience, but when you include home births in the poorly developed country regions the statistics are not so good.

Obstetrics is a very highly specialized branch of medicine.  For the best results, avail yourself of the best standards.  I did for my children!





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