Burnley and District Historical Society talk on history of midwifery

At the latest meeting of Burnley and District Historical Society, Linda Sawley gave a lecture to a well attended audience on the history of midwifery.
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Linda is a retired health professional who has written a good number of books and is a volunteer guide at Browsholme Hall.

Her lecture outlined the progress and improvements in the practice of midwifery right up to the present day and how such improvements have resulted in safe practice in midwifery with a consequent reduction in maternal mortality rates.

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The first book on midwifery was produced in 1600 and in the 1750s the first lying-in hospitals were founded. Linda spoke about some of the eminent medical pioneers of the past whose contributions have led to advances in obstetrics and midwifery practice. These included Dr Ignas Semelweiss whose observations noted vast differences in maternal mortality between hospitals staffed by surgeons and those staffed by midwives.

Burnley and District Historical Society's latest talk was on midwiferyBurnley and District Historical Society's latest talk was on midwifery
Burnley and District Historical Society's latest talk was on midwifery

His findings led to improvements in sanitation and hygienic practice with Joseph Lister’s understanding of the germ theory and consequent use of antiseptics and aseptic techniques improving things further. In 1847 James Simpson’s use of chloroform as pain relief in childbirth also improved outcomes.

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In 1902 an act to licence midwives to practice was introduced which controlled midwifery practice and a further act in 1936 introduced compulsory education and training for midwives with examinations to be passed before registration to practice.

More recent innovations have been such things as improved ante-natal care with ultra-sound scanning to diagnose any problems before birth many of which can be successfully treated whilst the child is still in the womb. All these have contributed over time to childbirth becoming a less perilous journey than it was historically and a reduction in both maternal and infant mortality rates.

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The next meeting of the Society will take place on March 13th continuing the subject of health, when the chairman of the Society Denise North will present a power-point lecture entitled “Women into Medicine”.

Meetings are held at St. John’s Church hall in Ivy Street at 2pm. Members, new members, and guests are aways very welcome to attend.

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