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Birthday: Triumph of childbirth

Bassett, Ronald

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Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

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Credit: Birthday: Triumph of childbirth. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

About this work


A long intertitle with voice-over explains the context of the film which was originally from part of a film entitled 'The Triumph of Childbirth'. Its purpose is to offer psycho-prophylaxis for pregnant women to understand what will happen to them physiologically and physically in labour and counter act both the pain and fear of pain in childbirth. At the beginning there is an archive sequence of a rapid birth in the open from the famous anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Batesons' work with indigenous peoples. Education to the parents to be is delivered via a series of lectures; they are initially delivered in the form of illustrations. A wider shot shows that the first lecture reveals that this is to the husbands of the mothers to be. In particular, it is hoped that women learn 'muscular disassociation'; the practioner sits on the floor with a small group of expectant mothers. Exercises and breathing are explained and demonstrated as the women breath, raise legs and then drop them, ie. gaining neuromuscular control. The nature of the contractions in each stage of labour is demonstrated with an overlay illustrating their severity. An obstetrician talks (he wears a mask whilst talking) about one of his patients, Mrs T. He recognises it will take time for this approach to be fully integrated into hospitals. Mrs T. gives birth at home assisted by her husband (who carries out finger tip massage on her abdomen having been trained in this technique), the obstetrician and midwife. Another patient who is deemed to need to work harder at this technique has her baby in hospital with the same team. It is noted that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support these techniques, although there is plenty of anedoctal evidence that they are worthwhile and enriching for the mother.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (20:06 mins.) : sound, colour



Copyright note

National Childbirth Trust.


More material on the NCT is held in the Wellcome Library reference SA/NCT.

Terms of use


Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Creator/production credits

Smith Kline & French Laboratories England. Formulated and scripted by Ronald Bassett, Photography by Geoffrey Currin and Massey-Collier, Ilustrations by Douglas Pitch A.T.D. Edited by Geoffrey Muller. Directed by Robert King. Produced by Little King & partners Ltd. Facilities extended by The National Childbirth Trust and The Royal Northern Hospital London. With sequences by permission of Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, Institute of Intercultural Studies, New York.


  • English


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