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October 6, 1978

Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America

Author Affiliations



by Richard W. Wertz and Dorothy C. Wertz, 260 pp, with illus, $10, New York, Free Press, 1977.

JAMA. 1978;240(15):1650. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290150096041

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This carelessly written collection of paraphrases does a grave disservice to the cause of natural childbirth, home deliveries, and the science of midwifery. It is essentially a vitriolic attack on obstetricians and hospitals by scissored paragraphs from second-and third-hand sources and shows an ignorance of historical facts. Most of the quotations and references are from textbooks of the 1920s and 1930s, with numerous juicy bits from 17th- and 18th-century literature.

The introduction states boldly that "this is not a history of obstetrics as a science or as a profession; it does not detail doctors' lives or progress in knowledge and practice"; but at least three-fourths of the volume is devoted to just that. There are pages of pictures of old and new instruments, scissors, knives, and forceps of all kinds, with the technique of applying them, all presented as a gruesome warning of what happens if the baby is delivered