Birth at home with medical attendance (France)

Birth at home with medical attendance (France)
1950. Giving birth at home with a rural doctor (France)  © Photo J.Ph Charbonier.

Birth at home with medical attendance (France)

Until the middle of the 20th century giving birth at home with a doctor or professional midwife in attendance was still common in France and other European countries, particularly in rural areas. The change to giving birth in hospital was much faster in cities than in the countryside, with temporal differences between countries and regions of the same country. Delivery protocol in hospitals very rapidly became medicalised, which determined a big increase in unnecessary interventions in all Europe in the 1990s.

Caesarean sections soon overtook the recommendations by WHO (maximum 15%), meaning that a quarter of Europeans are delivered by caesarean section, with variations according to country. The Scandinavians are closest to WHO’s recommendations. France had a rate of caesarean sections of 21% at the end of the 20th century, but is one of few European countries that has managed to keep the figure stable afterwards.

In the picture, delivery has just taken place in the communal room of a rural family. The women have boiled water to wash the mother and baby and to keep them warm; one of them holds the baby while the doctor protects its eyes against possible blindness. The materials used are on the table.

Image exhibited at the “Naissances, gestes, objets&rituals” exhibition which took place in 2005 in the Museum of Humanity in Paris