As the Melbourne Lying-in Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women ans Children was the first public hospital for women in Australia, this is the first set of patient records of their kind in Australia. Indeed they are one of the oldest surviving systematic records of childbirth in the world.
These two volumes are the first midwifery records kept by the Lying-in Hospital. They record every midwifery case from the first admission in August 1856 until the record keeping system changed in March 1889. Drs Richard Tracy and John Maund, the two medical founders of the hospital modelled them on the midwifery books developed by James Young Simpson, the great Scottish obstetrician of the Edinburgh Lying-in Hospital.
These two bound volumes have details of the mother and the delivery entered by hand in a systematic way that enabled Tracy and Maund to analyse their patients and practice. Each patient is recorded chronologically by date of admission, sometimes weeks before the child was born. The patient's name is given, her age, marital status and place of birth. Details of the labour are recorded, often very briefly as most proceeded without cause for special remarks, although the duration of the labour is noted, the presentation of the baby, and if the child was alive or stillborn. Sex, weight and length are noted.
In 1888 the Hospital divided the Midwifery and Infirmary Departments physically and administratively. The Midwifery Department moved into a completely separate new building in Cardigan Street and the honorary staff was increased to eight, four of whom only worked in Midwifery. The record keeping system changed so that Birth Registers (Series 158) and Labour Ward Case Books (Series 156) were maintained. There are also two Midwifery Department Honorary Physicians Case Books (1888-1891) (Series 154), the context of which is not fully understood.
Care must be taken in relying on the details found in records from this period. Spelling is variable and identities were sometimes being concealed. It is necessary to know the date of a birth (or more specifically, date of admission) to find a particular entry.
Both volumes have been microfilmed and Volume 1 is partially available on the Archives website.
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