Homebirth in Middlesex: Nursing Notes, April 1950

This month’s post comes from the April issue of the 1950 volume of ‘Nursing Notes and Midwives’ Chronicle’.

Within the photograph collection held in the RCM Archive, are some wonderful promotional photographs of midwives and their patients taken during the 1950s and 1960s, possibly used to promote antenatal care and homebirths, and this volume of ‘Nursing Notes’ seems to capture this era in the history of midwifery perfectly. With wonderful stylised drawings of nurses in uniform used in advertisements to insight into typically British attitudes to sex with an article on an American-made film highlighting the perils of not instructing your children on ‘marital relations’, this volume makes clear how this journal can offer much more than the history of midwifery.

One of the highlights of this issue is the case study of a domiciliary midwife based in Ickenham, Middlesex, following her on her rounds and during the birth of a baby girl to a local family. The advantages of homebirth are promoted throughout the article, together with the connectivity between the different strands of health service serving mothers and children, and it is interesting to see how these advantages are all centred around the ‘family’:

‘A great advantage of this home care of mother and baby is the tremendous sense of family unity which results from the interest of the father and other children…The midwife’s reward is in the lovely warmth of family life and the radiance of the mother…’


The opening article of this issue reveals how the RCM was continuing to campaign for the welfare of nurses and midwives. Entitled ‘Growing Old in the Modern World’, it looks at the difficulties felt by professional women ‘pensioned off’ at retirement age, and the need for them to look ahead and equip themselves with adequate interests and ‘hobbies’ to provide occupation during retirement. Given that this followed the introduction of the Basic State Pension in July 1948, with retirement of women at the age of 60, this issue was politically prominent.

Other articles in this issue include a discussion by the Honorary Eve Chetwynd, District Sister at Watford Maternity Hospital on the difficulties encountered by pupil midwives during their three month’s district training and exhorting them to respect the relationship of the midwife as a guest in the home of her patient.  Photographs of Eve Chetwynd have recently been donated to the RCM Archive so watch this space for later news! There are also notes on the experience of a retired midwife, Bridget Hegarty, during a trip to Malaya, where she had seen how native beliefs and the work of ‘charm ladies’ had to be countered in administering proper medical health during pregnancy and labour complications, and also a long article by a physician covering tuberculosis during pregnancy, advising midwives on their role in the management of mothers with tuberculosis.

By the 1950s the journal had developed into a useful tool of communication between nurses and midwives, and the reports from RCM branches, lists of official vacancies, and examination questions for the Central Midwives Board examination give an insight into the training and social benefits of such communication.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Suzanne Tyler says:

    What a sense of deja vu – or perhaps showing that midwifery has always been and should always be at the heart of local communities and embedded in supporting families. This article reminds us that collaborative working with other community health staff and social services is how midwives can make the biggest difference to health and wellbeing in the early years. These articles are a great way to celebrate the enormous achievements of midwifery both in the past and today.

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