The State, Midwives, Expectant Mothers, and Childbirth Reforms from the Meiji Through to the Early Shōwa Period (1868–1930s)
This chapter explores the expansion of modern bio-power in biological reproduction and maternal health from the late 1880s through to the early twentieth century. The key to this process was the spread of “modern” and “hygienic” childbirth practice. This transition involved the restructuring and introduction of medical and other types of institution and practice after the 1868 Meiji Restoration, setting in motion and promoting the modern medicalization of bodies. Building upon the modern health bureaucracy and medical system, the government sought to improve maternal and infant health by producing trained midwives, the so-called “new midwives” [shin sanba] or “modern midwives” [kindai sanba], educated in modern Western medicine. The government and organized medicine intensified their supervision of mothers and reproduction by way of trained and licensed midwives.