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Poor women who could afford neither physicians nor midwives were better off because they did not undergo the intervention of professionals who came hotfoot, bearing pathogens, from other births.

Midwives were better at physicians, that was in part how Semmelweis discovered the importance of washing hands. And physicians came not only from other births but also from things like autopsies.

Best was probably having a midwive coming to the home. That was the practise up here until the physicians monopolised childbirths through legislation.

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by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 22nd, 2012 at 04:01:42 AM EST
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Yes, midwives were better because they intervened less than physicians, and may have had the advantage of traditional practices like hand-washing (though a ready supply of clean water in homes was problematic, in cities at least). Yet a poor woman who gave birth aided only by a family member or neighbour was probably "best off", because more isolated from causes of infection.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Nov 22nd, 2012 at 04:41:37 AM EST
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Ignaz Semmelweis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Despite various publications of results where hand-washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings. Semmelweis's practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory and Joseph Lister practiced and operated, using hygienic methods, with great success. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died of septicemia at age 47.

we reserve usually for those who come to show us what should be obvious...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Nov 22nd, 2012 at 06:06:26 AM EST
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It is ironic he died of Septicemia when he spent his life trying to reduce its incidence. I wonder if the doctors treating him at the asylum didn't approve of his hand washing theories and succeeded in infecting him...

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 22nd, 2012 at 06:55:46 AM EST
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