Natalia A. Mitsyuk1,
Natalia L. Pushkareva2
28 Krupskoy St., Smolensk 214019, Russia
32a Leninsky ave., Moscow 119334, Russia

This article examines the specific features of the development of clinical obstetrics in Russia from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The research is based on statistical data on the birth rate, reporting material from inpatient maternity facilities and ethnographic information on birthing culture, and uses approaches and methods from the anthropology of gender, women’s history, and modern social history (including the concept of medicalisation). We show that the emergence of clinical obstetrics in Russia was linked to the development of medical science and the need for doctors to gain practical skills in midwifery. With obstetrics a taboo subject and childbirth still a “woman’s space” within popular midwifery, physicians trained in theory were unable to test out their knowledge in practice. The first maternity clinics were founded in the biggest Russian cities, with universities, in the second half of the eighteenth century, and became not just a means of assisting poor women, but also educational and experimental spaces for obstetrics. The development of clinical obstetrics in the provinces in the second half of the nineteenth century was influenced by the rural and urban reforms. By the start of the twentieth century, there was a significant gulf in attitudes to assistance at childbirth: in the capital, hospital births began to prevail over home births, while traditional midwifery clung on in the provinces, where generally births took place in inpatient facilities hospitals only in pathological cases. During this period, various types of obstetrics institutes emerged, even including ones owned by private individuals. A significant proportion of the funding for inpatient maternity facilities came from public donations.

Keywords: history of obstetrics, history of midwifery, clinical obstetrics, history of childbirth, maternity shelter, birthing culture

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