Persistence of traditional midwifery (Spain)

Persistence of traditional midwifery (Spain)
1943 c. Irene (1921-2016) a traditional midwife, first on the left. Andiñuela de Somoza (Spain) © AEEH

Persistence of traditional midwifery (Spain)

Until the last decades of the 20th century, traditional midwives and a growing number of rural doctors attended deliveries in the home, sometimes together. At harvest time, women urgently needed to apply themselves to farming tasks, which meant an important reduction in the post-delivery recovery period and the need to carry their infants with them while they worked.

In certain rural councils in isolated and mountainous parts of León, such as Maragatería, between 50 and 70% of deliveries were at home until 1990, although by that date primiparous mothers generally went to the maternity hospital.

Traditional midwifery was often a family tradition. Aged 23, Irene, first on the left, was still a trainee midwife with her aunt.  In 2012, Irene summed up her experience as a traditional midwife:

«I attended my last delivery in the summer of 1969; I had started as midwife age 30 and before that I used to accompany my aunt who taught me. We only attended births in the village. At home, people had prepared nappies, blankets and selvages and strong canvas to wrap up the mother when she expelled the   placenta.

I always attended deliveries very calmly, women were long-suffering and I would say “walk, push don’t shout”, and the delivery was in the kitchen, with the woman standing up, and they were usually fast and almost always at night.»