The birth wars

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  • Published 20081107
  • ISBN: 9780733323935
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

BEFORE CHLOROFORM WAS was discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, women had no relief in childbirth. They died during forceps and caesarean deliveries; they died from pain. The uptake of chloroform was slow through the later nineteenth century. At times the debate turned not, as you might imagine, on the possible side-effects on mother or baby, but on the extent to which God would be denied the screams of women in childbirth needed to fulfil the curse of Eve.

If you are a woman having a baby in Australia in 2008, you can be fairly confident you will not be offered chloroform because it will harm your baby. But you will be offered mythology, mythology in spades, from one side of the birth wars or the other, whether it harms your baby or not.

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