Women and Obstetrics: The Loss of Childbirth to Male Physicians

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Women and Obstetrics: The Loss of Childbirth to Male Physicians

"Woman" is often referred to as a diseased state of the male norm. Medical testing is done on men, with men as the norm. Women's bodies are diseased and dysfunctional. Female processes are not normal occurrences in the female body. They are deviant processes, needing male consultation and male solutions. This medicalization of women's bodies occurred during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as medicine became professionalized and men came to be in control of women's bodies and their processes. During the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century, midwives oversaw women's medical needs. Childbirth and diseases of the reproductive organs were the domain of midwives. Books on midwifery taught midwives to diagnose problems, to suggest treatments, and to oversee birth. As men sought to professionalize medicine and to further their control they began to become involved in midwifery and developed obstetrics and gynecology.

The shift from midwife to obstetrician and gynecologist occurred from the early eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Relinquishing control of their territory was not something midwives did voluntarily, rather it happened as a result of questions of women's place and innovations in technology. Men's access to education and to technology provided them with an advantage over female midwives. Female midwives and women in general were denied medical education. They were not exposed, nor allowed to use certain technologies. In order for midwives to keep their job, they were forbidden from practicing medicine. Using technology was practicing medicine; midwives could not use technology to ease labor or to diagnose...

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