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Special Delivery (1991)

Courtesy of Red Flannel Films

Main image of Special Delivery (1991)
Production CompanyRed Flannel Productions
SponsorChannel Four

Documentary, using archive footage and dramatisations, examining the treatment of women in childbirth by a centralised and male-dominated health system, and the marginalisation of midwives.

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The development of midwifery is unraveled carefully by women teaching and practicing the profession, revealing it as a profession constantly under threat. Women who have been or are being cared for by midwives offer personal accounts and express support for the continuation of the midwife within the National Health Service. Dramatisations of early accounts of the community midwife, and the political process which led to its establishment as a profession, offer some clues to how and why such an evidently important role is undermined by lack of funding and the movement towards a more rigid and formal healthcare system. Many women were excluded from practicing as midwives despite having been accepted by their communities in the past.

Made in Mid Glamorgan, Special Delivery (Red Flannel Productions, 1991) focuses on one community's struggle to maintain the services that women need, but the problems it describes are more widespread. The film highlights the dangers of an ever more centralised healthcare service, and one increasingly dominated by technology. By contrast, the midwives shown have developed close ties with their communities, often spanning several generations.

The pregnant women and mothers in the film are radicalised by their shared disapproval of the often unnecessary medical procedures which are imposed on them. In an account of the nature of intervention by doctors, Polly Sutton, a tutor in Midwifery, explains the processes by which one intervention leads to another and women are systematically denied control of their own childbirth.

Emma Hedditch

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Video Clips
1. Fighting for recognition (2:54)
2. The Midwives Act 1902 (3:00)
3. The 1960s (1:15)
4. Women's choice (3:06)
Red Flannel Films
Women and Film
Women's Film and Video Collectives