Chapter

Safe Mothers, Healthy Babies: Reproductive Health in the Twentieth Century

Milton Kotelchuck

in Silent Victories

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780195150698
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199865185 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195150698.003.06
 Safe Mothers, Healthy Babies: Reproductive Health in the Twentieth Century

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The decline of infant and maternal mortality represents one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. From 1900 through 2000, infant mortality in the United States declined dramatically from estimated 10,000–15,000 deaths to 690 deaths per 100,000 births; similarly, maternal mortality declined from an estimated 600–900 deaths to under ten deaths per 100,000 births. Reductions in both morbidity and mortality have improved the lives of parents and children and have altered expectations for women. Public health actions to improve sanitation, maternal hygiene, nutrition, and prenatal care played a central role in the transformation of reproductive health in the 20th century. This chapter describes decade by decade the evolving concepts and debates about the causes of infant and maternal mortality, the initiatives to ameliorate them, the institutionalization of the major public health advances, and the resulting epidemiologic transformations in the United States.

Keywords: public health; 20th century; history; maternal mortality; infant mortality; prenatal care; reproductive health; obstetrics; pasteurization; milk stations

Chapter.  14783 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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