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Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2007 Jun;12(3):227-38.

The birth of perinatal medicine in the United Kingdom.

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  • 1Perinatal Medicine and Child Health, University of Bristol, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB, UK.


Slow but steady progress in the medical care of mothers and their infants during the 16th-19th centuries received a setback early in the 20th century following a shift of focus from the baby towards gynaecological surgery. The development of paediatrics after 1928 and the formation of a national health service in 1948 led to a renewed interest in the fetus and newborn infant. Special care baby units (SBCUs) were created in the 1960s. At this time, too, obstetric technology arrived in the delivery room and domiciliary birth largely gave way to hospital delivery. Neonatal intensive care arrived in the 1970s. However, a severe lack of resources retarded progress. Many medical reports in the 1970s drew attention to the deplorable situation. In 1980 a House of Commons working party called for the establishment of a sound perinatal service. In 1982 the Government recognized all newborn infants as NHS patients from the moment of birth rather than after their registration. That year too the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) acknowledged the need for a subspecialty in maternal and fetal medicine. Meanwhile, a paediatric perinatal pressure group, arising in 1976, became a multidisciplinary association of perinatal medicine in 1981. By 1983 the new discipline of perinatal medicine had become firmly established.

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