This view has been part of the midwife profession since ancient times (Brucker, 2000) and is one of the most important differences between the roles of doctor and midwife. Another equally important difference is that midwives provide emotional support to mothers, as well as assistance during the birthing process. The word midwife has its roots in old English, and literally means "with woman" (Brucker, 2000), referring to a woman who works with women in labor. The very name of the profession implies that when the term was first used, the role of a midwife was to provide support, rather than intervention.
Midwifery is one of the few medical professions that are traditionally dominated by women. It is also one of the oldest known medical professions. The practice of midwifery is clearly referred to in the Bible (Brucker, 2000) and in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and it is known to have been part of early Greek and Roman society. Certain qualifications for the role of midwife began to evolve during this time - for example, midwives in Greece were required to have given birth themselves before they could begin working with other women. Several cultures still have this requirement for their midwives up until the present day.
Midwives are even part of the legends of some ancient cultures. ...
Other Athenian doctors became jealous of her success, and thinking she was a man, accused her of corrupting her patients. After revealing her identity as a woman, Agnodice was charged with practicing medicine. The charge was dismissed after many of her female patients protested; stating that without Agnodice's care, many of them might have died. According to the legend, this incident precipitated the overturning of the law against females practicing medicine, however afterwards they were only allowed to have female patients.
The Roman physician Soranus of Ephesus practiced medicine during the first and second centuries AD. He wrote over 20 medical books, the most significant of these being Gynecology (Randall, 1997), a highly detailed text about human reproduction. Among other things, the characteristics and roles of midwives were outlined in this text, as well as descriptions of childbirth and instructions for the care of newborns. According to Soranus, a good midwife was "literate, with her wits about her, possessed of a good memoryunafraid in danger andfree from superstition" (Randall, 1997, p6). Midwives were involved in most aspects of pregnancy and birth, from examination of women to determine whether they were pregnant and care of women during pregnancy, to the actual birth itself and care of the mother and child afterwards.
Throughout this period and later during the Middle Ages, the skills and knowledge of midwives was passed down through the generations using the apprentice system (Stock-Morton, 1996, p61), where new midwives were trained by being apprenticed to practicing ones. New midwives learned by watching experienced midwives work with women