In the early decades of the twentieth century prenatal care became an accepted part of routine obstetrical care. This thesis is a description of the evolution of the prenatal care idea in the United States during these years. Two approaches are used in this description. An internal approach to prenatal care notes the maturation of procedure and technique. An external approach notes the inpatient and outpatient suggestions for providing prenatal care, the suggestions for educating the public to value and expect prenatal care and the medical profession to provide such care, and the varied promoters of such care, with their equally varied reasons for promoting prenatal care.
By 1930 several hundred clinics and hospitals around the country provided prenatal care for pregnant women. Physicians were exposed to prenatal care by journal articles that explained the basics of such care. Some medical students were given lectures on prenatal care, followed by a short rotation in a maternity clinic. Nurses, social workers and midwives received some training in minimal prenatal care. Some women's groups felt that the government should provide protection of maternity and infancy, and pressured legislatures to pass funding measures for such protection. Organized medicine provided little active support for prenatal care, except through an Association organized by the American Academy of Medicine. The procedures to be included in prenatal care had become well defined by 1930.
Initially the lowering of maternal and infant mortality rates was the raison d'etre of prenatal care. Scattered studies on the effects of prenatal care on mortality rates did indicate a decrease in perinatal and maternal mortality rates with exposure to prenatal supervision. Though these studies became more statistically sophisticated as the twentieth century progressed, the early studies were too unsophisticated to indicate that similar results might occur in the entire population, under like circumstances.
Within the first quarter of the twentieth century prenatal care evolved from a suggestion to a multipurpose reality. The expansion of prenatal care's utility during its evolution gave it the necessary legitimacy to become an accepted part of obstetrics.
Walter C. Mackett
Frederick G. Hoyt
Lawrence D. Longo
Master of Arts (MA)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Prenatal Care -- history -- United States; Obstetrics -- history -- United States.
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Thomsen, Cristina M., "The Evolution of Prenatal Care in the United States : The Formative Years" (1981). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 746.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives