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Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Cruelty in Maternity Wards"

Gloria Lemay writes about the original story published in the 1958 Ladies Home Journal blowing the whistle on the cruel and sadistic treatment that women were receiving in the Labour & Delivery hospital wards of the 1950's. The original article told horror stories of women being bound hand and foot, drugged and abandoned during labour for hours on end. Cruel and appalling treatment that women received from the doctors and nurses during birth that would rival many of today's scariest horror films.

Obstetrical professionals may be ashamed of the deplorable and heinous past of their profession, but will quickly point out that it's ancient history. But is it? Oh, no argument, the leather straps used to bind women's arms and legs to the labour bed have been removed and the "twilight" drugs used to silence and further immobilize them are no longer used, but the hard truth is that they have just been replaced with more insidious and underhanded methods of subduing and subjugating women.

The leather straps have been replaced with the elastic bands of the Electronic Foetal Monitoring system and IV lines. The "Twilight" drugs have been replaced with induction drugs and the epidural. The harsh cruel voices of Doctors and Nurses have been coated in silky words and velvet tones, yet still serve to undermine and control labouring mothers. Instead of dominating with force, they dominate with hospital policies, and the guise of concern and convenience.

"Now we'll get you an IV and the Pitocin drip to start your labour, and hook you up to the Foetal Monitor so that we can make sure your baby is reacting well to your labour. Once that is going, we'll get you an epidural so that you don't have to suffer through the pain of labour and can relax and rest...."

" We HAVE to do (insert a plethora of medical interventions here)- you want your baby to be safe and healthy right?"

.... Bonds of a different sort, yet just as controlling. The end result is the same. Women are still leaving the maternity ward feeling victimized and traumatized. Birth Rape is alive and well in the 21st Century.

Cruelty in Maternity Wards

From Sheila Stubbs, author of “Birthing the Easy Way”:

I bought a copy of a 1958 Ladies Home Journal on eBay last week. This magazine contains an article called Cruelty in Maternity Wards that had an enormous impact on women and began the movement to allow husbands into maternity wards.

A bit of history: An anonymous letter from someone who signed herself ‘Registered Nurse’ was published in which she begged the editor to ‘investigate the tortures that go on in modern delivery rooms.’ ‘You of the JOURNAL have long been a champion of women’s rights.’ she wrote, ‘[Exposing] this type of medical practice would go a long way to aid child-bearing women.’ What resulted from that letter was such a flood of letters from angry women that the JOURNAL did a full article revealing the reality of what women had experienced in hospitals. This was peppered with comments from an obstetrician who AGREED that the treatment had been cruel, and also comments from frustrated nurses who hated what they saw happening but would lose their jobs if they spoke up.

Here are some of the things women complained about in May 1958: ‘They give you drugs, whether you want them or not, and strap you down like an animal”. ‘’I've seen patients with no skin on their wrists from fighting the straps'’. “My baby arrived after I had lain on the table in delivery position nearly four hours.” When I asked why I couldn’t be put into a bed the nurse told me to quit bothering her so much. ‘’with leather cuffs strapped around my wrists and legs, I was left alone for nearly eight hours, until the actual delivery'’ My doctor had not arrived and the nurses held my legs together. She was born while he was washing his hands. I do not believe the treatment I received was intentionally cruel - just hospital routine’.

From a nurse: So often a delivery seems to be ‘job-centered’ - that is, get the job done the easiest, quickest way possible with no thought to the patient’s feelings. In too many cases doctors and nurses lose sight of their primary concern - the patient. ‘’I remember screaming… [the nurse] ignored me. … the doctor said at one point, ‘Stop your crying at me. I’m not the one who made you pregnant!’ My third baby will be born at home, despite the sterile advantages of a hospital confinement; for I feel the accompanying emotional disadvantages are just not worth it.”

From a nurse: ‘I have heard such unthinking remarks as ‘You had your fun, now you can suffer’ made by a nurse to a mother in great distress, damaging the spiritual nature of the childbirth experience and showing the nurse’s ignorance of the sacramental nature of sex in marriage.'’ “I reached the point where I wouldn’t have been surprised if the man who was washing the windows had suddenly laid down his sponge and come over to ‘take a peek.’ It seemed that everyone else connected with the hospital was doing it!” “I know of many instances of cruelty, stupidity and harm done to mothers by obstetricians who are callous or completely indifferent to the welfare of their patients. …Obstetricians today are businessmen who run baby factories. Modern painkillers and methods are used for the convenience of the doctor, not to spare the mother. There is so much that can be done to make childbirth the easy natural thing it should be, but most of the time the mother is terrified, unhappy, and foiled in every attempt to follow her own wishes about having the baby or breast feeding…”

Doesn’t that sound like it could have been written TODAY instead of FIFTY TWO YEARS AGO!! What do you say they get a flood of letters TODAY, marking the 52nd anniversary of this article! Let’s tell them that we still see Cruelty in Maternity Wards, it’s just taken a different form!

their website:

Sheila Stubbs

HERE to read Gloria's entire article and her letter to The Ladies Home Journal