Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America

Deliver Me from Pain: Anesthesia and Birth in America

by Jacqueline H. Wolf

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Despite today's historically low maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States, labor continues to evoke fear among American women. Rather than embrace the natural childbirth methods promoted in the 1970s, most women welcome epidural anesthesia and even Cesarean deliveries. In Deliver Me from Pain, Jacqueline H. Wolf asks how a treatment such as obstetric anesthesia, even when it historically posed serious risk to mothers and newborns, paradoxically came to assuage women's anxiety about birth.

Each chapter begins with the story of a birth, dramatically illustrating the unique practices of the era being examined. Deliver Me from Pain covers the development and use of anesthesia from ether and chloroform in the mid-nineteenth century; to amnesiacs, barbiturates, narcotics, opioids, tranquilizers, saddle blocks, spinals, and gas during the mid-twentieth century; to epidural anesthesia today.

Labor pain is not merely a physiological response, but a phenomenon that mothers and physicians perceive through a historical, social, and cultural lens. Wolf examines these influences and argues that medical and lay views of labor pain and the concomitant acceptance of obstetric anesthesia have had a ripple effect, creating the conditions for acceptance of other, often unnecessary, and sometimes risky obstetric treatments: forceps, the chemical induction and augmentation of labor, episiotomy, electronic fetal monitoring, and Cesarean section.

As American women make decisions about anesthesia today, Deliver Me from Pain offers them insight into how women made this choice in the past and why each generation of mothers has made dramatically different decisions.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421403236
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 03/16/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 296
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jacqueline H. Wolf is a professor of the history of medicine and chair of the Department of Social Medicine at Ohio University and author of Don't Kill Your Baby: Public Health and the Decline of Breastfeeding in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. She is also the host of Conversations from Studio B, a monthly radio show on health and medicine that airs on the NPR affiliate in southeast Ohio, and was host for six years of Health Vision, a weekly show that aired on the local PBS affiliate.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Terrible Torture" or "The Nicest Sensation I've Ever Had"?: Conflicting Perceptions of Labor in U.S. History
1. Ether and Chloroform: The Question of Necessity, 1840s through 1890s
2. Twilight Sleep: The Question of Professional Respect, 1890s through 1930s
3. Developing the Obstetric Anesthesia Arsenal: The Question of Safety, 1900 through 1960s
4. Giving Birth to the Baby Boomers: The Question of Convenience, 1940s through 1960s
5. Natural Childbirth and Birth Reform: The Question of Authority, 1950s through 1980s
6. Epidural Anesthesia and Cesarean Section: The Question of Choice, 1970s to the Present
Glossary of Medical Terminology

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