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Volunteers in Childbirth, Past and Present

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For centuries, women relied on one another to assist in the labor and birthing process – as they still do in many countries of the world. As medicine advanced, midwives became more formally educated, but eventually doctors dominated childbirth care. First both female friends and families were pushed from the delivery room, but then invited back in. In all these stages in the evolution of childbirth, volunteers played an important role, closely connected in the last century to asserting women’s rights. This article will highlight some of the ways volunteers made a difference to the start of life, including some history of groups such as the International Childbirth Education Association and the La Leche League.