To develop the "habit" : Nurses and prenatal care for poor women in the United States and Great Britain, c. 1880-1939 Keddy, Barbara; Greenlees, Janet
Barbara Keddy, Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University presents the History of CAHN/ACHN and Janet Greenlees, Senior Lecturer Social Sciences, Media & Journalism (history); Senior Director Centre for the Social History of Health & Healthcare, Glasgow, Caledonian University delivers the Hannah Lecture sponsored by Associated Medical Services at the 2018 Canadian Association for the History of Nursing Annual Conference. Prenatal care provides an opportunity to improve mothers’ general health during pregnancy and to identify high-risk mothers for specialist care. By the 1920s, it became widely accepted policy in Western countries including Britain and the United States that all pregnant women should receive medical checks. However, poor women were then, and still are now, much less likely than their wealthier counterparts to engage with preventive healthcare. This paper examines the role nurses and midwives played in introducing municipal and voluntary prenatal provision in areas of socio-economic deprivation and in securing uptake in three cities - Philadelphia, Liverpool and Glasgow. All three port cities had high immigration levels and significant pockets of poverty. This paper highlights the role of the coordinating services and local nurse initiatives. While local variations in the process and politics of practice are evident, using a combination of district nursing and municipal records, this paper reveals how some commonalities in caring for poor, pregnant women transcended region. The boundaries of responsibility surrounding health and social welfare, either self-defined or professionally set established parameters around pregnancy care and could help or hinder securing women’s engagement with prenatal care. Both the similarities and differences between the communities suggest the need for more international studies of relationships between prenatal healthcare and social welfare if current provision is to better address the needs of all its constituents. While over the past 100 years maternity care in the USA, England and Scotland has undergone many scientific, technological and locational changes, the relationship between prenatal care and social welfare remains contentious in each country.
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