Obstetric practice and cephalopelvic disproportion in Glasgow between 1840 and 1900

Skippen, Mark William (2009) Obstetric practice and cephalopelvic disproportion in Glasgow between 1840 and 1900. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2695439


This thesis examines obstetric practice associated with cephalopelvic disproportion in Glasgow between 1840 and 1900. Disproportion is a complication of labour, which occurs when there is a physical disparity between the size of the fetus and the size of the birth canal. The majority of these cases involved women who had suffered from rickets as a child, and had a deformed pelvis as a result. During this period the number of children affected by rickets appeared to increase, and as a consequence more cases of disproportion were encountered towards the end of the century. Descriptions of these cases found in a wide-range of published and unpublished materials have been used to analyse changes to obstetric practice in Glasgow.

The complex nature of medical decision-making in cases of disproportion is shown. Methods available for the treatment of disproportion included caesarean section, craniotomy, forceps, induction of premature labour, symphysiotomy, and turning. Medical practitioners’ decisions were subject to social, medical and scientific factors. Practitioners’ choices were influenced by their experience, reports of successful cases both abroad and at home, the severity of the pelvic deformity, innovations in medical technique, perceptions of the value of the mother compared to her unborn child, location, and the decisions of the women and their friends and family.

After the 1870s there was an increase in the number of women who were delivered by one of these forms of intervention at the Glasgow Maternity Hospital. This change can be attributed to an increase in the prevalence of this condition, but it also reflected a shift from women being admitted on social grounds to medical reasons. This change was in response to an acknowledgement that selecting cases earlier improved the chances of a successful outcome, as evidenced by Murdoch Cameron’s work with caesarean section. In addition, as obstetrics emerged as a specialism, obstetric practitioners claimed these difficult cases for themselves. It was stressed that general practitioners and midwives should send women to obstetric physicians as soon as they were aware of complications, and that obstetric specialists were to replace general surgeons as the operator in severe cases of disproportion when caesarean section was required.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Edited version of the thesis, 3rd party copyright material removed.
Keywords: History of medicine, obstetrics, cephalopelvic disproportion, Murdoch Cameron, caesarean section
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
Supervisor's Name: Nicolson, Dr. Malcolm A.
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Mr Mark Skippen
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1237
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2009
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2013 15:39
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1237

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