Critically analyse the factors involved in the evolution of Twenty-first century midwifery in Victoria, Australia

Essay by kosztyi September 2004

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Midwifery, being with woman however, the profession has been continouosly shaped by historical, social and political events. The following essay is a critical analysis of the factors involved in the evolution of twenty-first century midwifery in Victoria, Australia. In Australia until the early 19th century, midwives were the main carers during a woman's labouring until the intervention of medical dominance. Medical dominance and its oppression of midwifery will be analysed followed by the model of care. Further factors such as continuity of care, birth centres, education, midwifery legislation, sociology, research and reflection are discussed as contributing to the evolution of twenty-first century midwifery in Victoria.

Medical Dominance and the oppression of midwifery by obstetrics

Medical dominance and the oppression of midwifery have been significant factors in the evolution of midwifery. During the first half of the 19th century traditional midwives carried out two thirds of all births in New South Wales.

However, towards the end of the 19th century midwives' influence have began to lessen and were oppressed by the male dominated medical profession.

By the 1930s traditional midwives had almost disappeared in Australia. In place of midwives emerged midwifery nurses who worked under the direction of the medical profession (Purcal, 2000). This had a detrimental effect for midwifery profession. The medical model of childbirth has blurred the line between midwifery and obstetric practice, so that midwives came to be seen as an obstetric nurse, the doctor's assistant. As a result, the role of midwives was eroded and their professional independence removed (Bates, 1997). It has been argued that midwifery in the health care system have come to

reflect the sexual division in society. For example, Oakley cited in Bates (1997) described the obstetrician as the father/husband figure and the midwife as the mother/ wife and the childbearing woman...