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June 11, 2017 at 10:47 am

Stokes Quoted in Story on Women Giving Birth 100 Years Ago

Dr. Patricia Stokes

Dr. Patricia Stokes

Dr.Patty Stokes, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, was quoted in a Mamamia.com story headlined “Here’s exactly what it was like to give birth 100 years ago.”

A century ago, almost every Australian woman knew someone who had died during childbirth.

Thus, when women fell pregnant, they were well aware of the risk. Some were, rightfully, terrified.

Once understood to be a natural life event, giving birth was now (at least to city women) thought to be an injury or crisis. And sometimes, for the first time in history, childbirth required medical intervention.

…Twilight sleep consisted of dosing the mother with morphine, which has significant effects on the central nervous system and is highly addictive, and a disorienting drug named scopolamine. The pain was still significant, though they would fall in and out of consciousness. The combination of drugs offered the possibility that the woman would entirely forget the birthing experience.

…But doctors reported horrific experiences of women becoming violent and thrashing in their beds as a result of the full force of contractions. They would try and claw out their own eyes and climb walls because of the intensity of their hallucinations. Their faces would go blue, and they screamed at the top of their lungs. Dr Patty Stokes, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies at Ohio University, says “The scopolamine induced amnesia, liberating women from normal self-control mechanisms, while cocaine took the edge off.”

The result of such a cocktail was women so dangerous that they had to be strapped down in order to ensure they didn’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

On top of not actually providing adequate pain relief, Twilight sleep also prolonged labour. The longer a woman was labouring, the higher her chances of bleeding to death, the baby suffocating, or requiring forceps (often not adequately sterilised) to extract the baby.

Read the whole story at mamamia.com.

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