Twilight sleep

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Twilight sleep (English translation of the German word Dämmerschlaf[1][2]) is an amnesic condition characterized by insensitivity to pain without loss of consciousness, induced by an injection of morphine and scopolamine,[3] especially to relieve the pain of childbirth. This combination induces a semi-narcotic[4] state which produces the experience of childbirth without pain, or without the memory of pain.[3] The term 'Twilight Sleep' is also sometimes used to refer to modern intravenous sedation.


Developed in Freiburg, Germany, twilight sleep replaced chloroform, the previous treatment for childbirth pains popular during the 1800s.[5] Developed by Carl Gauss,[6] who began research on the treatment in 1903, it was also sometimes known as the "Freiburg method".[4][6] However, Gauss was not the first to suggest the use of the combination of morphine and scopolamine as a surgical anesthesia; in 1899, a Dr. Schneiderlin "recommended the use of scopolamine, combined with morphia, for the production of surgical anaesthesia".[4]

Though introduced to the rest of the medical community in 1907, as of 1915, The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that "the method [was] really still in a state of development", noting of many substitutions that different doctors had used in the place of morphine or scopolamine.[4]

In 1915, the New York Times published an article on twilight sleep and the work of Hanna Rion, or Mrs. Frank Ver Beck, who had recently written a book entitled The Truth About Twilight Sleep. In that article, Rion said that the consensus of 69 medical reports she had looked at said that "scopolamin-morphin is without danger to the child."[6]

This consensus would eventually change as the negative side effects of twilight sleep came to light.


It has been said that children born under the Freiburg method are born sleepy. Mrs Ver Beck states that out of 500 cases, 199 children showed a condition which indicated that the "injection had affected the child's organism."

TWILIGHT SLEEP; Is Subject of a New Investigation, The New York Times.[6]

Initially heralded as the dawning of "a new era for woman and through her for the whole human race,"[6] the Freiburg method was eventually abandoned due to negative side effects.

Some of these complications were emotional, i.e. that it removed the mother from the experience of childbirth, leaving her with no memory of the labor or delivery of the child. As one Nebraskan woman stated of the experience of twilight sleep,

Moreover, the drugs had depressive effects on the central nervous system of the infant.[3] This resulted in a drowsy newborn with poor breathing capacity.[3][6]

See also


  1.  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). [ "Twilight Sleep" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Boldt, H. J. (1915-02-05). ""TWILIGHT SLEEP."; An Inaccurate Translation of the German Daemmerschlaf". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Twilight sleep". 1999-08-22. Retrieved 2008-08-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "Twilight Sleep: the Dammerschlaf of the Germans". The Canadian Medical Association Journal. 5 (9): 805–8. August 1915. PMC 1584452. PMID 20310688. From the foregoing it is evident that the Freiburg Dämmerschlaf has already undergone numerous modifications, that the method is really still in a state of development.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Cassidy, Tina. "Taking Great Pains: An Abridged History of Pain Relief in Childbirth". Retrieved 2008-08-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 "TWILIGHT SLEEP; Is Subject of a New Investigation". The New York Times. 1915-01-31. Retrieved 2008-08-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>