The Effect Of Gender Roles Of Male Physicians And Female Midwives

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Effect of Gender Roles in Male Physicians and Female Midwives

In past centuries, only women attended to women during childbirth. Men were usually not involved, unless they were needed for their strength or other emergencies. However, with the medicalization of childbirth, the presence of male physicians emerged. By the 19th century, tensions between male physicians and midwives heightened as male physicians began to introduce new techniques and anatomical knowledge that interfered with the traditional social birthing process. Much of this tension rose from the gender roles that categorized the work and success of men and women within the work of childbirth. In A Midwife’s Tale, Laurel Ulrich explores Martha’s diary to present the challenges midwives faced during the late 18th century. Midwives, such as Martha Ballard, were challenged by male physicians and diverged from the style of their work because of the perception that omen were considered more emotional, nurturing, and social in their work while men were more knowledgeable of science, anatomy, and new tools. Ulrich writes that female midwives, such as Martha, were viewed to be more nurturing and caring towards their patients than their male competition. Female midwives considered birth as a natural process, uncomfortable and frightening, rather than a medical event that must be studied closely. Therefore, female midwives were able to respect the intimacy between their work and the birthing process. For example,
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