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Products for grant FA-55153-10

Lamaze: An International History
Paula Michaels, University of Iowa

Grant details:

Soviet Theories of Labor Pain’s Origin and the Quest for Its Objective Measurement, 1950s-1960s (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Soviet Theories of Labor Pain’s Origin and the Quest for Its Objective Measurement, 1950s-1960s
Author: Michaels, Paula
Abstract: Bound up with debates over the origin of labor pain were concerns for how to accurately assess pain’s intensity. Most clinical research on the efficacy of psychoprophylaxis centred on judging women’s performance based on outward signs of suffering. Grimaces, clenched jaws, crying, and screaming were interpreted as indicators of the method’s (or, more often, the woman’s) failure. Sceptical of the accuracy of such cues and reluctant to trust the testimony of women themselves, some investigators sought what they touted as more objective measures of pain or predictors of women’s pain threshold. For example, Sverdlovsk pharmacology professor A.K. Sangailo developed a machine he called to sensograph, which used electrodes to administer variable electric current to women in order to identify their pain threshold and predict their success or failure using psychoprophylaxis in labour. Based on extensive archival research in Ukraine and Russia, this paper will analyze medical professional debates over the origin, role, and measurement of pain in childbirth as a window onto questions of mind-body medicine and gender dynamics in the clinical encounter.
Date: 9/4/11
Primary URL:
Conference Name: European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Conference

Pain and Blame: Psychological Approaches to Obstetric Pain, 1950-1980 (Book Section)
Title: Pain and Blame: Psychological Approaches to Obstetric Pain, 1950-1980
Author: Paula A. Michaels
Editor: Otniel Dror
Editor: Esther Cohen
Editor: Leona Toker
Editor: Manuela Consonni
Abstract: This essay reconstructs the recent history of pain in childbirth, a universal physiological phenomenon intertwined with the socio-cultural context in which it unfolds. It focuses on the period from the 1950s through the 1970s, a time of flux in the understanding of childbirth pain within the medical profession and the general public. This era witnessed an emphasis on the role of female psychology in obstetric pain. Two similar psychological approaches to obstetric pain emerged: natural childbirth, promoted by British physician Grantly Dick-Read, and psychoprophylaxis, developed by Soviet neuropsychologist I. Z. Vel’vovskii and popularized in the West by French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze. In an effort to highlight trans-national influences and national idiosyncrasies, I take a comparative approach to the meanings attributed to childbirth pain in France and the United States, viewing them against related relevant developments in the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom and tracing the ways in which the dynamic, dialogic clinical encounter between medical practitioners and their patients inscribed shifting social meanings and values on labor pain.
Year: 2012
Publisher: Rodopi
Book Title: Pain and Knowledge