I am starting a PhD on Childbirth in the 18th century and was scheduled to meet a doctor of medicine who specialised in 18th medicine and history, however, this has fallen through and I really wanted to talk to someone who had more knowledge in the field to fill in the gaps in my own ideas around the subject. Does anyone on here know anything about 18th-century childbirth? About the medicinal side of things? Or maybe point me in the direction of someone who could help.
There are very knowledgable people on the c18-L and MEDMED-L listserves. You have to sign up on the web pages Google sends you to. The manager of MEDMED-L is Monica Green, email@example.com, a professor of history at Arizona State; she might be able to answer your questions off the top of her head. Also try H-WOMEN H-NET, the same way.
Here I am quoting some interesting episodes of earlier researchers: An example-
When a birth began to go horribly wrong, a cesarean section was the last option. There is one story of an American woman who begged for a C-section when she decided her death was imminent. He put her to sleep with a large dose of laudanum, opened her up and took out a baby girl, as well as his wife's ovaries in the hope that she would, "not be subjected to such an ordeal again." He then stitched her up and she survived the whole ordeal by becoming the first person to survive a C-section in the United States. http://georgianaduchessofdevonshire.blogspot.com/2010/03/joys-of-prenancy.html>
To fulfil the study I found primary and secondary sources that helped me to better understand what it was to be pregnant in 18th century Britain. Knowing that women did not have a secured role in the British society I found it interesting to try and show how the elementary and natural act of pregnancy in a way granted them a part to play in society.
In the article “Explaining the Rise in Marital Fertility in England in the ‘Long’ Eighteenth Century” by E. A. Wrigley and the book Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines, William Buchan , 1785 I learned that medicine wondered and evolved around pregnant women and their state of pregnancy to secure the life of both the mother and the unborn child. In the articles “Maternal Health in the English Aristocracy Myths and Realities 1790-1840” by Judith Schneid Lewis and “Childbearing and Female Bonding in Early Modern England” by Linda A. Pollock I learned how the state of pregnancy permitted women to create a female bond and a social group that pressed with all its weigh in the British society. And finally in the article “Illegitimacy in Eighteenth-Century Westminster” by Nicholas Rogers I learned how society organized around illegitimate pregnancies and how the rise of illegitimacy can be a sign of a sexual “revolution” for women.