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REF NO.: 219

SUBJECT: Visiting lecturer to offer insight into midwifery and meaning of birth

DATE: March 6

A woman who has played an important role in establishing midwifery as a profession in Canada will offer two presentations at Memorial University’s St. John’s campus on March 7 and 8. Elaine Carty, director of the Midwifery Program in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, will speak on an important historical contributor to midwifery, and on how a holistic approach to birth is used to create better midwives at UBC.

On Tuesday, March 7, Ms. Carty will examine the contribution of 18th century midwife Madame du Coudray who was commissioned by Louis XV to travel throughout France, teaching peasant women and local midwives in an effort to reduce infant mortality.

“She was very influential. She was really the feminist of her day and had amazing intellect and political skills,” Ms. Carty explains. In addition to writing a textbook, which was sold throughout France, Madame du Coudray also created the first obstetrical torso.

“She used linen, silk and bone to construct this very anatomically correct torso — by hand — that she could then train and test people on,” says Ms. Carty, who saw a restored original at the Flaubert Museum of France. The torso, which included a pelvis through which students could feel how to assess a baby’s position and turn it if necessary, was critical in a time when people did not look under the skirts of women.

Midwives and surgeons alike were amazed by what they were able to learn by practicing with the sophisticated “machine,” as it was called.

On Wednesday, March 8, (International Women’s Day), Ms. Carty will speak about Birth and its Meaning, which takes its name from a second-year course in the UBC Midwifery Program that is designed to stimulate student’s thoughts about the holistic nature of birth.

“We want to instill in students both the art and science of midwifery, so we integrate creative projects,” she says, explaining this approach makes better midwives. “There’s a lot of reflection when you’re with a woman in birth, so you always have to be sorting out what’s going on. The woman has many things impacting her, from childhood memories to her current relationship to whatever fears she might be experiencing.”

To help “get the other side of their brain working” as she puts it, midwifery students are asked to do an art assignment that explores some aspect of birth. During her talk, Ms. Carty will describe, show and even wear some of these student art projects.

Ms. Carty became a midwife through a graduate program at YaleUniversityin 1968. In 1982, she was a founding member of the midwifery pilot project at the women’s hospital in Vancouver, and has since played an ongoing role in the integration of midwifery into the B.C. healthcare system. The UBC midwifery program that she directs was born in 1998, and is one of only three current training programs at Canadian universities (there are none in Atlantic Canada).

Ms. Carty’s talk on Madame du Coudray is scheduled for 12 p.m.on Tuesday, March 7, in the Arts and AdministrationBuilding, room 1046. Birth and Its Meaning will be held on Wednesday, March 8 in the Health Sciences Centre, Lecture Theatre E from 4-5 p.m.

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For information or to arrange an interview, please contact Leslie Vryenhoek, communications co-ordinator (Faculty of Arts), Memorial University of Newfoundland, 737-8292 or


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