As recently as the 1930s, women and babies died regularly in childbirth, usually from infections. Intense efforts from the medical community led to vast improvements in survival rates.
But as more births moved into the operating room, and doctors worked to eliminate risk, the natural process became increasingly an expert-mediated procedure, according to local midwife Faith Gibson.
Gibson, who worked as a nurse in an obstetrics ward in the 1960s, tells harrowing tales of women strapped to a table, drugged and unconscious, waking up in agonizing pain without knowing what was causing the pain.
The experiences motivated her to advocate passionately for "physiological" childbirth, a birth determined by the needs of the mother's and baby's bodies.
But having a baby in a hospital isn't like that anymore, according to Deirdre Lyell, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford Medical School.
"There's definitely more patient autonomy and a great deal of respect for her choices throughout the process," Lyell said.