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Tania McIntosh School of Nursing Midwifery and Social Work Bottle Feeding

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					                                 Tania McIntosh

              ‘A Price Must Be Paid For Motherhood’:
         The Experiences of Maternity in Sheffield, 1879-1939.

This study considers the reproductive experiences of women in Sheffield between
1870 and 1939, encompassing the development of concepts of maternal and infant
welfare, and debates over birth control and abortion. It focuses on the impact of state
and voluntary enterprise, on the development of health professions and hospitals, and
on the position of mothers.
        The study shows that high infant mortality was caused primarily by poor
sanitation. Unlike other areas, Sheffield had low rates of both maternal employment
and bottle feeding, suggesting that these were not significant factors. The decline in
infant mortality was due to a combination of factors; the removal of privy middens
and slum areas, and the development of welfare clinics and health visiting services.
        High maternal mortality was prevalent mainly in areas of skilled working class
employment; not middle class areas as in other cities. There was no inverse
correlation between infant and maternal mortality in Sheffield. Maternal mortality
was caused by high rates of sepsis following illegal abortion. The reduction in
mortality was due to a cyclical decline in the virulence of the causative bacteria, and
the application of sulphonamide drugs to control it. The development of antenatal and
birth control clinics had little impact. Despite early action to train midwives in
Sheffield, midwifery remained a largely part time, low status occupation throughout
the period. The hospitalisation of normal childbirth occurred early in Sheffield, and
demand for beds outstripped supply, demonstrating that women were able to shape
the development of services.
        Local authority and voluntary groups generally co-operated in the delivery of
services, which were developed along pragmatic lines with little reference to eugenics
or national deterioration. The growth of welfare schemes was circumscribed by the
available resources. Central government provided enabling legislation, but schemes
were planned and implemented at the local level.

Dr Tania McIntosh, Lecturer in Midwifery

University of Nottingham
City Hospital Campus, PGEC
City Hospital
Hucknall Road
NG5 1PB.


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