The November speaker was a member of Wellington WI. Lucy Quist is a midwife, and has a keen interest in the history of midwifery and its effect on the experience of women who give birth. She managed to induce a certain amount of queasiness with her description of the very unpleasant procedures carried out on women in the 18th century – the point at which birth was ‘medicalised’ in lying–in hospitals, having previously taken place at home, with local midwife to assist. Pain relief was unknown until Queen Victoria was given chloroform when she was in labour, after which lesser mortals were also allowed some help!
Women today are encouraged to behave in any way they choose whilst in labour, in order to reduce stress and encourage the production of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates milk production.
Lucy gave us some very depressing statistics about maternal and neonatal deaths in less well–developed countries. 800 women a day die from preventable complications of birth. The figures are particularly distressing in respect of girls aged 15-19, who are responsible for 10% of all births. In many countries, pregnancy and birth are the leading causes of death in this age group.
Lucy also spoke about the appalling impact of female genital mutilation on women’s health, particularly in respect of childbirth. It is estimated that 125 million women and girl have experienced FGM before the age of 15.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we learned that about a third of all domestic violence starts or escalates in pregnancy.
Lucy had brought with some of the equipment used by midwives which we could have a play with, and also a knitted breast! These are used by midwives, health visitors and breastfeeding volunteers as a tool to help mums learn more about attachment. Any colour will do, so we are going to get out our yarn oddments and get knitting, as they are in constant demand.
Our next meeting will be on Thursday 18 December at Langford Budville Village Hall, starting at 7.30 pm.
For more information, please see our website – Wellingtonwi.org.uk, or our Facebook page – Wellington Women’s Institute.
We can also be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 07773 350459.