Maternity and Child Welfare Act 1918

Black and white photo of a postnatal check-ups at a clinic in Dagenham (c. 1945)

The Maternity and Child Welfare Act 1918 represents a turning point in the law’s response to lives and lived experiences of women and children in England and Wales in the early twentieth century and beyond, and can be seen as the forerunner of the provision of medical and social support provided to pregnant women and new mothers, and their babies, today under the National Health Service

Hazel Biggs

The Maternity and Child Welfare Act 1918 aimed to improve the provision available for the health of mothers and young children. Under its auspices local authorities in England and Wales were to make arrangements for attending to the health of expectant and nursing mothers, and for children under five years of age who were not attending schools recognised by the Board of Education at the time. The services provided included maternal and child welfare clinics, day nurseries and health visitors, none of which had previously been routinely available.


The full version of this landmark is written by Hazel Biggs.