Obstetrics History

The word obstetrics comes from the Latin word obstare which means "to stand by." Obstetrics by definition is a type of medical specialty dealing with a woman's care during pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal period, as well as newborn baby care up to six weeks. The majority of obstetricians are also gynecologists. A gynecologist is a doctor with a specialty in the health of the female reproductive system.

History of Obstetrics

Before science and medicine took over, midwives were the obstetricians of their societies. They focused on a natural form of childbirth and used position, massage and herbs to help a woman deal with the pain of labor as well as any problems with birthing like the position of the baby. While they didn't receive any medical training, they had extensive knowledge about the childbirth and caring for a newborn and this knowledge was passed down through the generations of midwives.

The earliest recorded knowledge of the more medical, surgical aspect of obstetrics was around 1300 BC when a c-section was performed on a deceased woman. At this time in history, and up until the 1500s, any c-section performed usually resulted in the death of the mother and was only used if absolutely necessary and rarely done unless the mother was considered beyond help. Or it was used to try to save the baby's life by removing the child from the body of a recently deceased pregnant mother. The first recorded successful c-section where both mother and baby survived isn't said to have occurred until the 1580s when Swiss pig gelder Jakob Nufer performed the procedure on his wife after a prolonged labor.

In the 1800s c-sections were rarely done and only if necessary. In the UK and Ireland the mortality rate for a c-section was more than 80 percent. The choice of medical intervention in a difficult labor was the forceps which were invented in the 1500s as a secret tool but weren't more commonly used until the 1700s.

Obstetrics was the first physician specialty recognized in the United States in the early 1800s.

Obstetrics Career Training

In order to become an obstetrician, a person is required to get a medical degree plus complete the required residency training. A residency is a minimum of four years where the individual is under the care and instruction of a fully licensed physician.

After residency a physician can choose to sub-specialize in a variety of areas. Some areas of specialization include uro-gynecology, maternal fetal medicine, gynecological onocology or reproductive endocrinology. Those who have completed their university and residency education typically make an obstetrics salary of between $250,000 and $303,000 in the United States.

Another possible career in this area of medicine is as an obstetrics nurse. These types of nurses focus on the care of pregnant and laboring women as well as early newborn care. They often independently assess, evaluate care and implement care during various stages of childbirth. Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy, most of the care you receive in a hospital delivery will be from obstetrics nurses. Nurses will also provide care to you and your baby after birth, provide emotional support and help you with any problems you may have breastfeeding. These healthcare professionals must complete a nursing degree and at least a year of clinical nursing experience to become a registered nurse. Salary range for this profession is around $60,000 per year in North America.

Modern Obstetrics

Advances in medical technology have led to better care for pregnant women especially those with high risk pregnancies or difficult childbirths. The practice of obstetrics has also led to better care of newborns and a lower infant mortality rate in developed countries.


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