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Maternité de Paris, Port-Royal

The Maternité de Paris, Port-Royal was the "lying-in" hospital for the poor women of Paris. The obstetrician Stéphane Tarnier pioneered use of incubators for premature infants at the Maternité at the end of the 19th century. He trained many other important French obstetricians, some of which (such as Auvard and Budin) went on to make important contributions to the care of newborns.

"It is impossible to describe the genesis of advanced newborn care without talking about the convent of Port Royal, a maternity and midwife school. At the end of the 19th century, new concepts of maternal and neonatal care emerged from the facility. Medical knowledge spread rapidly across Europe, and allowed the diffusion of new technology. Medicine entered a scientific era, which ultimately gave new directions to perinatal health care.

"The Port Royal convent, close to the Luxembourg Garden in Paris in 1625, was transformed into a prison during the French Revolution (also called Prison de La Bourbe and Port-Libre). In 1814, the prison was converted into a maternity, and was fully completed in 1818.

"The Paris School of Midwives moved in 1794 from the Hotel Dieu, close to the church of Notre Dame where it had been located since 1610, to two different specialized locations. One taught the art of delivery and was located at the Oratoire rue d'Enfer; the other, dedicated to post-partum and breastfeeding, moved to the ex-prison of La Bourbe. From there, it moved again to the Port Royal Maternity in 1814."

-- "The Role of the French Midwives in Establishing the First Special Care Units for Sick Newborns," by Paul L. Tobas and R. Nelson, Journal of Perinatology 22(1):75-77, January 2002.

A special pavilion for the care of newborn infants was established at the Maternité in 1893. It was opened and managed by "Madame Henry," Dr. Tarnier's Midwife-in-Chief, and had 12 incubators. Madame Henry resigned when Dr. Tarnier was succeeded by Dr. Pierre Budin in 1895.

Interestingly, Elizabeth Blackwell, America's first woman M.D., trained at the Maternité. "Soon after graduation, Elizabeth left for England and Paris, hoping to supplement her Geneva education with study at the great hospitals of Europe. Though told that she would be welcomed at the teaching hospitals of Paris, the only opportunity she was offered was at the lying-in hospital, La maternité. There she found that her medical training gave her no status above that of the uneducated French village girls who were training to become midwives. Nevertheless, she considered the training in women's and children's diseases, as well as midwifery, to be excellent."

-- Elizabeth Blackwell, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine

L'ancienne Maternité, south facade, ca. 1909. Photograph by Paul Delaunay and published by J. Rousset. The new Maternité is in front, behind lies the botanical garden. Used by permission of the Wellcome Library, London.

Floor plan of L'ancienne Maternité, ca. 1810. Engraving by J. E. Thierry after H. Bessat. Used by permission of the Wellcome Library, London.

Maternité de Paris, perspective view, ca. 1913. Used by permission of the Wellcome Library, London.

Maternité de Paris, ground plan, ca. 1913. Used by permission of the Wellcome Library, London.

Incubators in use at the Maternité. Engraving of unknown origin published in 1909. Used by permission of the Wellcome Library, London.

Incubators at the Maternité around 1900.

Sortie de Maternité. Painting by A. Demerest, ca. 1900, on exhibit at the Musée de l'Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris, 47, quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris, France.

Cloitre at the Maternité Port-Royal, 2006.


Incubators at the Maternity Hospital, Port Royal, Paris (Maternité de Paris, Port-Royal)
Dr. Stéphane Tarnier
De La Couveuse Pour Enfants (Auvard)
Incubators for Infants (London Illustrated News, 1884)
Fondation du pavilion des enfantes débiles à la Maternité de Paris [Foundation of the Pavilion of Sick Infants at the Maternity of Paris]
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Created 5/12/2007 / Last modified 5/12/2007
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