UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Prepping the cut : caesarean section scenarios in English Canada, 1945-1970 Mennill, Sally Elizabeth


At the beginning of the 21st century, Canadian public debates about caesarean section centre on the relative agency of mothers and medical professionals in choosing the preferred birthing method. A 2006 study at the University of British Columbia aims to determine why the Pacific has the highest caesarean rate in the country. According to its authors, BC’s rate is 27% despite the World Health Organization’s advocacy of a rate between 10 and 15 percent. The highlighting of this discrepancy in the pages of the popular Vancouver Sun typifies the public concern that today so commonly echoes professional unease. Sandwiched between the era of development and professionalization – 1900 to 1950 – explored in Mitchinson’s critical chapter on c-sections, and the widespread acceptance that occurred in the 1970s and beyond, lie the often overlooked years, 1945-1970, which first saw c-sections solidified in treatment and entrenched in medical and social discourses. At the end of WWII, Canadian mothers and medical professionals were about to embark on a quarter-of-a-century consideration of how reduction of risk in c-sections could contribute to positive outcomes. This dissertation examines the social, technological, professional, and discursive factors that converged throughout the post-war period in Canada, arguing that medical technological developments of this time period coupled with developments in the professionalization of obstetrics, the substantial broadening of state health infrastructure post-WWII, and a significant shift in ideological constructions of motherhood according to white, middle-class standards contributed to an increased comfort with the practice of caesarean section.

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