In this month’s edition of Essentially MIDIRS, Jo Murphy-Lawless takes a historical look at how obstetric science has viewed women and their bodies.
Here is a preview of her article, which begins by analysing knowledge in relation to the use of Walcher’s position.
Midwifery and obstetric knowledge: thinking deeply about birth – Jo Murphy-Lawless
Images and meanings
‘Twenty-five years ago, while working in the elegant library of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Dublin, I encountered an illustration of Walcher’s position from the 1937 edition of Tweedy’s practical obstetrics (Solomons et al 1937). Over the years, it has fascinated me because of its many possible meanings. I often discuss it with my students because I think it is useful for us to try to ‘see’ how obstetric science views women and their bodies.
The drawing appears in the chapter on abnormal labour. It shows a woman’s body with a drape over the upper half, while the lower half of her body is quite exposed. She is lying supine on a table with her thighs and legs hanging down over the edge of the table. A straight-backed chair stands to the outside of each of her legs. We see her from an angle as if we were standing in front and slightly below the edge of the table and chairs, so that our eyes are focused on her body as a pregnant uterus and vagina. We cannot see her head or face at all. What can this peculiar drawing be about and what can it tell us about how obstetric science has come to understand women’s bodies in all their variations?’
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