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September 22, 2022

The Baby Machine, a ‘Space Suit’ for Mothers To Be, 1959

In 1959, a pressure suit to be worn during child-birth has been ordered from South Africa by King’s College Hospital, where Mr. John Peel, who would deliver the Queen’s third baby, was chief gynecologist. Here, the pressure suit in action:

These pictures of a woman using the suit in the first stage of labour were taken in Johannesburg. The mother was Mrs. Lesley Spencer, who was having her second child. The photographer was her husband. This is a record of what may prove to be a milestone in obstetrics.

Here is an explanation of how it works by Express Science Reporter Chapman Pincher:
“This combination of see-through plastic suit, vacuum pump, and clinical chaise-longue is the new Baby Machine designed to shorten and ease the pain of childbirth. When the expectant mother feels the first pangs of childbirth she dons the suit and keeps it on until immediately before the baby actually arrives.

A rigid metal cage inside the suit ensures that there is a large air space between the plastic and the mother’s body. When the vacuum pump sucks air out of the suit the sudden fall in air pressure enables the mother’s muscles to work more freely and with greater power.

By operating a valve with one finger the mother can bring the machine into action whenever she feels she needs its assistance. In this way the entire time for the birth process can usually be halved, according to Professor Stephanus Heyns who invented the machine.

The doctors can see what is happening through the transparent plastic and the suit can be quickly removed by means of a zip-fastener, Professor Heyns claimed that 1,100 women have used the suit successfully at a big maternity hospital in Johannesburg.”
As it was the first effective method yet devised for reducing the long first stage of childbirth, it may well become standard equipment throughout the world.


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