Sunday, January 24, 2010

Twilight Sleep

I touched on the topic of Twilight Sleep once before in a re-blogged post, but I learned a lot more about it from The Business of Being Born and I wanted to bring it up again.  This is part of the horrible but true history of birth in western civilization.

This is how the movie describes it:

There was a very strong belief in the idea that women were meant to suffer pain in childbirth because of Eve's transgression.  But the suffragettes and women activists of the early 1900's said "I'm a modern woman and I'm not going to suffer" and so they all wanted the pain-free childbirth that the doctors promised.

Twilight Sleep is the term referring to the state induced when doctors gave women a combination of Scopalamine and Morphine. This method was developed in Freiburg, Germany by Dr. Carl Gauss in the early part of the century (and is sometimes called the Freiburg Method).

Women would wake up, be handed their baby, and have no memory of how it was born. They marveled at how they could have a baby so free of pain. But the truth was the combination of the scopalamine and the morphine merely took away the memory of the period of childbirth. They also made you completely lose all sense of awareness, all self-control and enter a semi-narcotic state full of fear. Women would lash out at doctors and nurses, so they had to be blindfolded, put in straight-jackets and strapped down to a bed for days.

Screenshot from TBOBB

When the straps left marks and bruises on their limbs, doctors and nurses began to use lambs wool restraints so that husbands wouldn't ask questions. They were left strapped there for hours, sometimes laying in their own defecation.

Screenshot from TBOBB

Of course, it wasn't until later that they realized that the drugs were causing serious problems for the newborns. And I guess someone finally realized how inhumane this treatment of women was.

One day we will look back to our own time in history and write that exact same sentence about current obstetric practices...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your posting! It was the information I needed for my Women's Humanity class!
    We were talking about birthing long ago!!
    If you would like to reply to my blog site, I will get extra credit!
    Thank you so much for the info...Ginger Smith


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