Soviet Maternity Care and Competing Narratives of Trauma

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Abstract

In 1970, the Soviet Union released a childbirth preparation film to ready mothers for the experience of birth. To Mothers and Children (Materiam i detiam) depicts clean, modern facilities and a polite, professional medical staff. With images of their attentive engagement in antenatal class, the film displays peoples from all corners of the USSR, from the Far North to Uzbekistan, readily identifiable thanks to their conspicuously native garb. The scenes cut between Soviet women labouring in maternity wards in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkov (today, Kharkiv) and in Kamchatka, an isthmus between the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East. The narrator reminds viewers that ‘there is no pain or agony. . . . This is a normal delivery’, as experienced in every city, town and village across the USSR. After the baby is born, the physician holds him up and hands him to the mother, who coos, ‘he’s so cute’. ‘Thank you’, she says to her doctor, who skilfully managed her labour and delivery. The narrator stresses that the method was ‘a result of the Soviet state’s concern for the health and happiness of the individual’.[1]
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGender and Trauma since 1900
EditorsPaula A. Michaels, Christina Twomey
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Chapter7
Pages123-42
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781350152748, 9781350145382
ISBN (Print)9781350145368, 9781350145351
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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