Tuesday, 15 September 2009

betty's twilight sleep

i've been anxious to see how this episode of betty's hospital birth on madmen would be portrayed, & i was relieved that it wasn't downplayed, & remained intense & true to a lot of the birthing techniques used at post-second war,that i'd read about & been horrified by, such as "twilight sleep" , unnecessary medical techniques (such as enemas & shavings). i'ii take my own painful, natural post mid/late 60s'/70s midwife delivered birth any day & i can only imagine how post-partum depression & psychosis might have been handled at that time period...

"circa 1945-1960: cruelty in maternity wards
By the time the postwar baby boom got into full swing, the sheer number of women having babies under Twilight Sleep raised a new issue: The method dulled the pain, but at what cost? Women were restrained and strapped to gurneys for their own protection as they thrashed around in bed, freed from their inhibitions by the drugs. Some had their legs clamped in stirrups for hours in order to be ready when the doctor arrived.

Mothers began to speak out. In 1958, an article headlined "Cruelty in Maternity Wards" ran in Ladies' Home Journal, and described in detail the "tortures that go on in modern delivery rooms." A flood of women sent the magazine their own horror stories. "I've seen patients with no skin on their wrists from fighting the straps," a nurse from Canada wrote.

"Just let a few husbands in the delivery rooms and let them watch what goes on there," said one reader from Detroit. "That's all it will take — they'll change it!" An Indiana mom claimed, "The whole thing is a horrible nightmare." "


  1. Wow, this is pretty new information to me.
    My nanny told me when she was in labour with my mum it lasted almost 3 days, and my grandpop wasn't allowed in to see her at all.

    It's amazing how things have changed in such a small amount of time.

  2. Sad but true. My grandma had twlight births with both her children. My last birth (#3) was a home birth. Words can't describe how awesome and empowering it was.

  3. terrifying!
    makes my wussy self even more motivated to adopt

  4. Watched this episode last night!! Very very interesting turn of events. Really looking forward to what will become of Elizabeth Draper. A very complex character!!

  5. wow, i'd never heard of this technique, how horrifying!

  6. I am giving a talk to OB residents and want to include a still frame from the delivery sequence of this show. I have downloaded the episode from Amazon. How do I get a still shot?


don't be shy, please leave me a comment!