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Leah Clark

Economic and Social History

Year of study:


Mothers’ Negative Experiences of Childbirth from the 1950s to the Present Day


Humiliated, underappreciated, neglected. This is how new and expectant mothers of 1950s and 60s Britain, and in the decades following, have felt during their birthing experiences due to medical professionals’ attitudes and treatment. Literature around 20th century birthing experiences has revealed that many women in Britain were unhappy with their maternity care and felt neglected by professionals. They reported a lack of sympathy from doctors and a general lack of dignity and compassion. Similarly, literature and reports from the present day show the same complaints from mothers. My research aims included tracking these trends in the literature from c1945 to the present day and also analysing personal testimonies, newspaper articles, and policies that have been enforced to improve patient care in the NHS. I have found thus far that despite initiatives such as Professor Jane Cummings’ work which attempts to place compassion at the forefront of NHS care, women are still suffering with the same problems of neglect and negative attitudes from their midwives and doctors that they were in the postwar years. There are reports as recent as 2023 detailing neglect, traumatic experiences, and a decline in the quality-of-care mothers are receiving on maternity wards. This research serves as a call to policy makers to begin discussing and making changes to this issue, as despite newspapers reporting on this and sharing mothers’ stories, there does not appear to be much discussion about this in mainstream media or in parliament, suggesting that women’s experiences of maternity care are still of secondary importance in the UK.


I’m Leah Clark and I’m a third-year student in Economic and Social History. I have always had a passion for history since I began watching ‘Horrible Histories’ in primary school. However, this past year, I became particularly interested in the history of Motherhood and Maternity in Britain as a number of my lecturers specialised in research areas like this. I began researching for my dissertation next year and really enjoyed looking through primary source material. I also began to see a trend in the literature and source material which is what led to this research project! I have become passionate about this area of history and hope to one day undertake a Masters course or transfer this knowledge in a practical way like working for a women’s charity and supporting mothers. In my free time, you will often find me playing guitar, singing, or reading, always with a coffee in hand of course! (Yes, I can play guitar whilst holding a coffee, can’t you?!).

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