In the current climate of technological advancement in reproductive technologies and genetic engineering, a considerable number of previous and "low-tech" interventions in human reproduction tend to be lost or taken for granted. The history of birth technologies, for example, extends back to prehistory in the form of crude contraceptive devices, aids to birth and nursing, and alternatives to breastfeeding newborns. Also, there is now considerable routine technological intervention in common aspects of human reproduction: In most developed countries pregnancy and childbirth are the most common reasons for hospitalization, and obstetrical interventions (medical and surgical) are the predominant procedures performed in hospitals. It is important to examine the history of reproductive technology as well as contemporary assumptions about technological requirements for reproduction to appreciate fully reproductive technologies as products of social and political pressures. Without appropriate scrutiny, one is inclined to view technological applications as self- determining and an automatic response to social progress rather than the work of dominant interests.
Because women's bodies are the most obvious site of reproduction, it is not surprising to find the considerable history of reproductive interventions focused on women. As a profound and highly involved event culturally and physically, birth was one of the first and most persistent foci of interest to every society. Yet there is little evidence of the complex treatment of this central social activity before the advent of the European scientific revolution. Midwives were certainly the chief attendants at and around birth up to and, in most places, at least sporadically, beyond this time. There is also evidence that their knowledge of human reproduction and its complications was extensive and effective. However, beginning in the mid-1800s, there was a radical transition from a midwife-controlled environment of reproduction to one dominated by a growing profession of physicians. By the beginning of the twentieth century the transition