The Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital and The Medicalisation of Childbirth in Edinburgh, 1844- I914: A Casebook-Centred Perspective
Nuttall, Alison M.
This thesis examines the development of the Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital in the context of medical care in Edinburgh during the period 1844-1914. It is based primarily on casebooks of the hospital and, in particular, on in-depth micro-studies of all of the hospital's Indoor and Outdoor cases in four discrete years, at approximately 20-year intervals. The central argument of the thesis is that Over the period 1844- 1914, professionals and patients at the hospital came to understand birth as a medical rather than a social event, and that this had repercussions for both groups as well as the institution itself. Chapter 1 places the thesis in the context of other secondary uork on the development of maternity hospitals and care, and examines the use of casebooks as primary sources. Chapter 2 considers the hospital and its staff in relation to the city and the Edinburgh medical community in particular. Chapter 3 examines the patients who attended. It argues that, in the nineteenth century, their perception of the hospital was as a place of social shelter. However, by 1912 a greater number attended for otherwise unaffordable medical care at birth. Chapter 4 examines the medical treatment given to patients. It argues that there was increasing acceptance of medicalisation by patients in the period studied, and increasing confidence in giving such treatment by the professionals involved. Chapter 5 discusses the staff and male and female trainees at the hospital. It suggests that, prior to the introduction of national requirements, the provision of training was driven by commercial concerns, and therefore varied throughout the period studied, particularly in the amount of practical experience offered. The relationship between the different grades of staff and the treatment they offered, described in the chapter, suggests increasing stratification in the roles of doctors and nurses at delivery and during the puerperium. The increase in nursing care following the birth indicates the creation of a professional role that among the poor had previously been undertaken by family members. The role played by increasing anxiety over infection following the introduction of strict antiseptic measures is discussed. The thesis concludes that in Edinburgh the medicalisation of childbirth among the poor was well-advanced by 1912, and suggests that this was a result of increasing patient acceptance combined with the increasing professionalisation of care.