Midwives Chronicle & Nursing Notes: April 1969

This month’s post comes from the April 1969 issue of Midwives Chronicle and is very much about new beginnings.

Most striking is the evidence of new maternity units and hospitals being opened throughout the UK at this time. Advertisements for staff and health professionals lie alongside articles on a new unit at Lincoln and the long awaited construction of the new Charing Cross Hospital at Fulham. A detailed look at the background to the new Charing Cross building eagerly looks forward to the proposed opening in 5 years:

‘In 1974, nearly 40 years after the need for it to be became urgent, the new building will be completed. The hospital will be one of the finest in existence, with shops, a bank, a cafeteria, and a swimming pool for patients able to use them. In the centre will rise s tower in the form of s cross containing most of the nearly 900 beds.’

Fazakerley & District Hospitals Management Committee new maternity unit, 1969
Fazakerley & District Hospitals Management Committee new maternity unit, 1969

Another change being promoted in the journal is advocacy of the use of sterilising agents by mothers preparing feeds at home, moving away from the traditional methods of boiling. A two-page advertisement for the sterilising solution, Milton is supported by figures of 420 fatalities in children for 1964 from gastro-enteritis, and is further backed up by a survey sponsored by the Ministry of Health which conclusively proved the higher incidences of contamination from boiling teats and bottles by mothers in the domestic environment. After reading this, I was excited to find that the RCM Archive collection includes an educational poster aimed at providing guidance on sterilising bottles using Milton!

The early 1970s saw the introduction of metric measurements in the UK, the biggest impact probably felt through the changes in currency from shillings and old pence to pounds and new pence. Another consequence of this was the standardisation of medicine dosage, with new sized bottles accompanied by new 5ml plastic spoons. Midwives are asked to help parents become more ‘metric-minded’, recognising that ‘all changes take a little time to be accepted’. This seems to have been the start of including small plastic dosage spoons with bottles of medicine, which is still very much in evidence today.

Medicine Measures Old and New, 1969
Medicine Measures Old and New, 1969

News of a fresh survey is announced in the April 1969 journal, this one aimed at updating the 1958 survey on all aspects of obstetric services, sponsored by the National Birthday Trust and organised by Geoffrey Chamberlain, later to be become the well-respected President of the RCOG, and Roma Chamberlain. The survey was to be by questionnaire, filled out for every birth taking place during one designated week. This was possibly the ‘British Births’ survey published by the National Birthday Trust Fund in 1970, and I look forward to delving more into the records held at the RCOG which relate to this!

Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain
Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain

I feel that this journal during the 1960s reflects the original concept of the journal from the 1880s in its mandate to spread education among midwives throughout the country. So we find articles reproducing lectures and papers on developments in obstetric practices, and also covering psychological aspects of pregnancy, intubation methods suitable for use by midwives, and discussion of reproduction as a physiological process. The journal also continued to spread news about the RCM, and in this particular month it was election of members of the college Council, with pages dedicated to those standing for election in order that midwives might make an informed vote.

A straight talking midwife ends my post, with her disarming riposte when engaged in the debate between breast and bottle feeding, and the seemingly easy availability of tablets to dry up milk: 

‘I don’t wish to alarm the patient with talk of cancer and embolism, but I tell them when they say they haven’t enough milk, why do they require such large doses of stilboestrol from the doctor to get rid of milk that isn’t there’

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