Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

Related Topics

Dr. Blakely on Obstetrics, 1933
Binghamton's Famous Doctor

Radio Talk Prenatal Carre

Radio Talk Prenatal Care

Binghamton, N.Y. March 16, 1930

Under auspices of the Kiwanis Club for the Binghamton Academy of Medicine

By Dr. S.B. Blakley

The medical supervision of the expectant mother during pregnancy is called prenatal or antenatal care. Broadly speaking it includes much more than just those few months. For example, as a child, the expectant mother may have had rickets which caused a bony deformity which in turn may seriously interfere with her labor. Again, she may have had scarlet fever which left a latent kidney trouble which in turn may be so lightened up by pregnancy as to threaten her health or life. Many other examples might be given showing how important all the years that go before, as well as the immediately preceding nine months, are to the patient under discussion tonight.

The expectant mother is the most important member of any social group whether of the city, state or nation. The number, health, and character of future citizens depend largely on her. Without her home with all that it means to us is rarely maintained. Anything that affects her health or usefulness or threatens her life is of deepest general concern. The mother of the family having a baby is infinitely more important to a community than the father of the family having his appendix out. All this would seem to be self-evident, but curiously enough is only within a comparatively recent time that its truth has been at all widely appreciated or recognized. In our present vaunted civilization which after all is but a thin veneer over an ancient and eternal paganism the following is a common picture with the following persons of the play an expectant mother, rarely even partially relieved of her household duties even up to the day of her trail; a preparation for this day most dread and important if her first experience often most completely inadequate for a situation that may demand more skill and assistance than any major surgical operation, a so-called experienced neighbor women, usually of the best intentions but entirely incompetent to act as nurse and housekeeper; any accident regarded as the inscrutable act of an all-wise Providence; and finally, the new mother again taking up her increased burdens after a totally insufficient period of rest. Soviet Russia is today the only country that gives and finances a period of rest before and after labor. It is to our shame that both state and church encourage, even demand, a high birth rate, while neither offer much aid in solving the problems involved which are largely educational and economic.

But there is evidence that the expectant mother and her child are being viewed in changing light. Much of the ignorance, superstitions, and taboos about sex are being swept away. Women are being emancipated in body and mind from the slavery of a dead past. Both the medical profession and the laity have come to realize that pregnancy is often, yes even usually, NOT a normal process whatever it may have been in ages gone and that the line between health and illness during that period is very narrow. The dictum that in obstetrics nature should be allowed to take her course is but the manifestation or colossal ignorance. Maternity hospitals and pavilions are being established, and both doctors and nurses are receiving better training in this branch or the healing art. The importance of the expectant mother is being recognized. She has become something more than just a "confinement case".

What should the expectant mother do? First, she should visit the physician of her choices as soon as the need for his future services is known. If she is not able to pay a private physician, the charity department of the city or county can make such service available to her. The physician then or later will, after taking her history, make a complete physical examination including the measurement of the bones of the pelvis and whatever special or laboratory tests are needed. the physician gives her advice and instruction, and instruction, and at stated intervals thereafter further examines and advises her. It is highly important that the patient follow the advice given to her, and carefully keep all appointments requested by the physician. It is not necessary here to enter into the details of prenatal care. The information was given by the physician may be and should be supplemented by reading. Every good library has books on the subject, many women's magazines have departments offering advice and pamphlets, and the Department of Labor at Washington and New York State Department of Health at Albany have excellent booklets on prenatal care, free for the asking. No women need to be ignorant on this subject that is of such vital interest to her and hers.

The average women should pass thru her pregnancy with a very small amount of discomfort and often with improved health and reach the end of the period with vigor or body and serenity of mind, ready to fulfill her biologic duty and realizes her dreams.

The universal exercise of proper antenatal care will enormously reduce the incidence of miscarriages and stillbirths, will almost entirely abolish the convulsions of pregnancy, and go a long way toward solving the problem of the type of infection formerly known as childbed fever. It can be possible only through an enlightened public opinion. It is no idle dreams, but a perfectly practicable achievement. In the whole realm of preventive medicine, there is no more promising field than prenatal care.

Originally published: Tuesday, June 05, 2018; most-recently modified: Monday, June 03, 2019