Should You Use a Midwife?
The history of midwifery
The Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical text, contains guidance on midwifery
The Book of Genesis describes the midwife-assisted birth of Tamar's twins
5th Century B.C.
A Roman physician writes that a midwife "must have a healthy mind...and long fingers with nails cut short"
Some European midwives are burned as witches
Male physicians in Europe begin attending births of the wealthy, promising safer and quicker deliveries
Midwife Brigit Lee Fuller attends three births on the Mayflower as it sails to the New World
English midwife Elizabeth Nihell criticizes physicians' surgical approach to childbirth
Competition from doctors forces European midwives to practice primarily among the poor
Midwives attend 50 percent of U.S. births; physicians entering a new specialty, obstetrics, campaign to discredit them
Massachusetts is the first state to outlaw midwifery; several other Northeastern states follow
Middle-class women flock to hospitals that offer the promise of painless childbirth in the form of "Twilight Sleep"
A prominent obstetrician writes that, among other things, midwives are "filthy and ignorant"
Midwives attend 15 percent of U.S. births; the first U.S. nurse-midwifery school opens in New York City
The baby boom leaves OBs with too many births to handle; some promote nurse-midwives as the best way to deal with the overflow
Competition from doctors and CNMs, as well as laws prohibiting its practice, nearly eradicates lay midwifery in the U.S.
Beginning of grass-roots natural child-birth movement prompts a small resurgence in lay midwifery
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recognizes nurse-midwifery as a profession
First non-hospital birthing center, staffed by CNMs, opens in New York City
First national organization established to develop credentials for lay midwives
CNMs attend 5 percent of U.S. births, a 47 percent increase in just four years
5,000 CNMs and 4,000 lay midwives practicing in U.S.; 45 accredited nurse-midwifery training programs in operation